The Swiss National Bank stands ready to defend the franc with interest-rate cuts and market interventions if investors pile into the haven currency in response to the French elections, said SNB President Thomas Jordan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We hope that a reasonable candidate can win, somebody who is in favor of free markets, but we cannot exclude that there will be more pressure on the Swiss franc,” Jordan explained in Washington, on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund spring meetings. “But as you know we also have our instruments to react to such a situation.”
Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old former banker who quit the Socialists for a remarkable tilt for France's presidency, has won the country's first-round vote, finishing just ahead of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The French Interior Ministry's final figures for the vote showed Macron winning 23.75 per cent of the vote, with Le Pen on 21.5. Francois Fillon for the Republicans, the party of the Gaullist establishment, came third with 19.9 per cent of the vote, just ahead of far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon with 19.6 per cent.
As of today, all the polls are suggesting that Macron and Le Pen are likely to oppose each other in the second and final round of the presidential vote. The key to victory may come down to a single factor – voter turnout in the second round. Assuming that turnout is along the lines of historical standards (about 80%), Marine Le Pen needs to win 18m voices. Polls currently suggest she will win 12m. And yet, the scenario of a very low turnout must be kept on the table, especially if François Fillon makes it through to the second round. Aversion against Fillon is such among leftist voters that they could be tempted to turn in a blank ballot or not vote at all.
French magistrates are investigating 26 individuals or institutions suspected of hiding huge sums of money in tax havens through Panama, the Seychelles, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore. Tax authorities are looking into 416 suspected tax dodgers in an inquiry sparked by last year's Panama Papers revelations, according to Le Monde newspaper. The investigators are part of an elite white-collar crime unit set up following revelations that then finance minister Jérôme Cahuzac had dodged tax through a secret Swiss bank account.
UBS will go on trial in France for establishing a wide-ranging tax fraud scheme, legal sources said today. The swiss bank will be charged with illegal banking practices and dissimulating tax fraud, the sources said, adding UBS's French subsidiary will also go on trial for complicity. “UBS has made clear that the bank disagrees with the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made,” the bank said in a statement. “We will continue to strongly defend ourselves and look forward to a fair proceeding.”
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that employers can ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols, including headscarves. "An internal rule of an undertaking [firm] which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination," the court said. The ECJ was ruling on a case dating to 2003 when Samira Achbita, a Muslim, was employed as a receptionist by G4S security services in Belgium. At the time, the company had an "unwritten rule" that employees should not wear any political, religious or philosophical symbols at work, the ECJ said.
The number of cross-border workers commuting to Switzerland for jobs has risen by more than a quarter since 2011, the Swiss statistics office (BFS) said on Thursday. At the end of 2016, 318,500 cross-border workers were active in Switzerland, an increase of 11,300 over the previous year. Lake Geneva (37.2%), northwest Switzerland (22.8%) and the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino (20.2%) remain top destinations for commuters from across the border. In the same five-year period the total number of working people in Switzerland (including residents and non-residents) rose by 7.8%, to 5.1 million.
PSA Group is discussing a potential acquisition of rival European carmaker Opel from General Motors, a spokesman for the French automaker said on Tuesday. "PSA confirms that it is exploring a number of strategic initiatives with GM with the aim of increasing its profitability and operating efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel," company spokesman Bertrand Blaise said.
Benoit Hamon secured the French Socialist Party's presidential nomination on Sunday, beating rival Manuel Valls. Initial results gave Hamon 58 percent of the vote and Valls only 42. Hamon was the more left-wing choice of the two politicians. He supports a universal basic income and wants to reduce the traditional work week to 35 hours. He has also spoken in support of legalizing cannabis and increased investment in renewable energy. Valls, on the other hand, has called himself a more "Clintonite" leftist with a strong belief in pragmatism and individual responsibility.
The top boss of HSBC, Stuart Gulliver, has said it is planning to move some staff from London to Paris following Britain’s exit from the European Union. Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gulliver said in an interview Bloomberg Television that "about 1,000 jobs which are carrying out activities which are covered by European legislation... would probably need, in our case, to go to France". While Gulliver had in the past already hinted at such a switch of investment banking jobs, his comments appeared more precise as he suggested France would take precedence over other EU nations.
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