Viva la démocratie! Unions in France are seeing a boost in new members following the country’s recent battle over pension reform, which saw months of strikes and protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans. The CGT union has seen more than 30,000 new members join since January, while the moderate CFDT has experienced a 40% rise in new joiners. Interest is growing among younger and private sector workers, where union membership is typically lower. While French unions have traditionally played an outsized role in labour relations, a 2017 overhaul of labour rules by Macron left them weaker. However, the influx of new members could put them back on a more solid footing in the company.


US stocks rallied on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite up 1.2%. Investors were optimistic about the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations in Washington and strong first-quarter earnings reports from retailers such as Target. Shares of regional banks also saw gains, giving a sigh of relief to the overall banking system. Walmart's price falls ahead of the earnings report as retail sales data misses target for April.


Gold prices resumed a downward trend in Asian trading on Thursday, following steep losses this week as traders waited for further cues on the US economy and monetary policy from this Friday's speech. The yellow metal fell below the $2,000 an ounce level for the first time in two weeks, with hawkish signals from the Federal Reserve and a reduction in US debt default fears causing traders to shift away from safe havens.


Oil prices fell in early Asian trade on Thursday as investors monitored talks to raise the US debt ceiling. The previous day, both benchmarks settled more than $2 higher due to a sharp drop in US gasoline inventories as demand surged to the highest levels since 2021 and optimism surrounding negotiations over the debt ceiling. The crude market is awaiting clear signals that the US economy will avoid economic catastrophe or that China's recovery is picking up steam.


The US dollar rose for three straight sessions, boosted by hawkish comments from several Federal Reserve officials and the unresolved debt ceiling dispute in Washington. The Fed policymakers suggested that the central bank could still lift interest rates once more while the potential for default still lingers as politics takes priority and both parties refuse to back down without a fight.