European markets are holding onto modest gains Friday ahead of critical elections in Greece and France that could shape the direction of the Eurozone. Greeks will go to the polls for a second time in as many months in an effort to elected a government that will steer it through the most significant economic turmoil in its history. Polls suggest a dead-heat between pro-European parties New Democracy and PASOK and the upstart leftists of Syriza's, whose charismatic leader, Aleixis Tsipras, has vowed to "nullify" terms of his country's 240bn EU/IMF bailout.
Voters in France will also select representatives for its lower house of parliament, with odds favouring an outright majority for newly-elected President Francois Hollande. In Britain, banks shares are leading a small surge on the FTSE 100 after last night's pledge by Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mervyn King at last night's Mansion House Dinner to provide a firewall of emergency funds in the case of market upheaval in Europe and a new focus on lending to small and medium-sized businesses.