Hollande urges French voters to block Le Pen

Safe-haven assets such as gold and the Japanese yen retreated as opinion polls suggested Macron would easily beat far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen in a May 7 run-off vote for the French presidency.

"It's risk-on. The French presidential election was an obvious risk, and it now looks like, barring a shock, Macron will gallop ahead and the market will have its candidate in place, and that´s another hurdle overcome this year", said BNY Mellon currency strategist Neil Mellor, in London.

Even France's current president, Francois Hollande, said a Le Pen victory would put the country in danger.

The French CAC 40 stock index also surged more than 4 percent - to its highest level in almost a decade - following polling that showed Macron likely to win by a landslide in his May 7 runoff against Le Pen.

Come a May 7 run-off, the voters of France will have a clearer than clear choice about who deserves their oui.

The Front National has no experience of government, so it is hard to tell what would happen if she was elected, but - broadly speaking - France would increasingly work to keep foreigners out and Brussels would have reduced powers.

Ms Le Pen and her father are now estranged, and have not spoken for two years.

Mr Hollande, a Socialist nearing the end of five years of unpopular rule, threw his weight behind his former economy minister in a televised address, saying Ms Le Pen's policies were divisive and stigmatised sections of the population.

So, after Macron win, markets soared.

An updated estimation by research firm Elabe for local broadcaster BFMTV indicates that Macron leads with 24 percent of votes, and Le Pen 21.8 percent.

Pro-European Mr Macron was the Socialist finance minister until the autumn, when he quit to set up the En Marche movement, which proposes tax and spending cuts.

Voters narrowed the presidential field from 11 to two.

European stock markets rose on the open as investors welcomed Macron's commitment to strengthen the European Union and the euro, both of which Le Pen wants France to exit.

Her plans to restore France's borders with its European neighbours, pull out of the eurozone and hold a referendum on leaving the EU had sown fear of another devastating blow to the bloc after Britain's vote to leave.

Hitting that angle in Rouvroy, Le Pen, after urging "all patriots" on Sunday to rally behind her, on Monday handed out leaflets in which she pledged to "eradicate Islamist terrorism" and expel "Islamist foreigners".

Le Pen has also tried to brand herself as a leader of her country rather than just her party in a bid to widen her appeal.

  • Leroy Wright