10 things you need to know in markets today

Good morning! Here’s what you need to know in markets on Thursday.

1. French markets are starting to get jitters about the possibility of far-right Marine Le Pen winning the French election, reports the FT. As the first round of election on April 23 nears, the cost of insuring against a volatile swing in the euro has jumped. One-month options contracts on the euro-dollar pair have risen to their highest level since the fortnight before the Brexit vote.

2. Confidence among small British firms has climbed to the highest level in over a year despite soaring business costs, thanks to a boost in exports. The latest Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Index (SBI) stood at 20.0 in the first three months of 2017, the highest figure since the fourth quarter of 2015, and considerably higher than the -2.9 recorded straight after the EU referendum.

3. KPMG has fired its top auditor in America and four other partners for “unethical behaviour” in connection with leaked information that gave them advance warning of the audits that a US watchdog was about to inspect, reports the Times. The accountant said the five partners and another employee had improper advance notice of the inspections or were aware that their colleagues had received the information and failed to report the leak in a timely manner.

4. Alex Pabon, a Barclays exec who went to prison for LIBOR-rigging broke his silence on Wednesday. He told Business Insider that traders like himself “have been served up as fall guys to protect these more powerful senior bankers.”

5. London copper rose from three-month lows on Thursday as the dollar sagged after U.S. President Donald Trump said the country’s currency was too strong, Reuters reports. London Metal Exchange copper rose 0.9 per cent to $US5,679 (£4520) a tonne by 3.13 a.m. (10.52 p.m. ET), paring losses from the previous session when prices plumbed their lowest since Jan. 10 at $US5,615 (£4469) a tonne.

6. Real wages in Britain grew at the slowest rate since 2014 during the three months ending in February, suggesting a two-year period of growth is coming to an end, reports the FT. Labour market data published by the Office for National Statistics showed that wages were not keeping pace with rising inflation brought on by higher commodity prices and the fall in the value of the pound following the EU referendum.

7. Asian markets are mixed. At 6.45 a.m BST (1.45 a.m. ET) Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.57% — largely due to a spike in the value of the yen against the dollar — and the Topix was down 0.6%. Meanwhile the Hong Kong Hang Seng was up 0.17% at the same time, and China’s Shanghai Composite was also up by 0.17%.

8. Tesco delivered a strong set of full-year results on Wednesday, hoping to reassure investors that it is in good enough shape to deal with the £3.7 billion ($US4.6 billion) takeover of Booker. Tesco reported for 2016/17 group profit before exceptionals of £1.28 billion, against a market forecast of around £1.25 billion. The figure is 29.9% higher than last year’s number.

9. The CEO and cofounder of $US1 billion fintech startup TransferWise is calling for “action not just words” from the British government to protect the fintech industry in the wake of Brexit. Speaking at the Treasury’s first International FinTech conference in London on Wednesday, Taavet Hinrikus said: “If London wants to cement its position as the fintech capital of the world, it needs to take some action.”

10. Chancellor Philip Hammond said Wednesday that the UK needs to strengthen its fintech sector in the wake of Brexit to help achieve the government’s ambition for a “global Britain.” The Chancellor said: “We will have to strive and graft and fight to seize the opportunities – and make the most of them. That means growing and strengthening the areas — like fintech — in which we enjoy a competitive advantage.”

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