As I’m writing this just after 8am est, the French stock market is up by about 5%, large-cap European issues are up 4%, the euro is up by 1%+ against the US$, and stock index futures show US stocks opening up about 1%.
This is all because yesterday’s first round of the French presidential election ended up pretty much as the polls had predicted. Candidates with 5%+ of the vote, in their order of finish, are:
Le Pen 21.4%
Fillon, an experienced politician and candidate of the center-left, had been the early favorite, but was undone by a scandal involving no-show government jobs for family members that paid, in total, more than €1 million. Fillon’s subsequent refusal to withdraw directly undermined the prospects for Macron, the centrist candidate, and gave life as well to Mélenchon, of the far left.
The market fear had been that, with the center/left vote split three ways, Marine Le Pen, the far right choice, might end up doing surprisingly well. That worry was intensified by the Brexit vote, the Trump victory and a terrorist incident in France last week.
The stakes in this election are very high. Le Pen’s key economic platform: leave the euro and repudiate French euro-denominated debt. The euro would be replaced by a new franc, which would be rapidly devalued–à la Abenomics in Japan–in order to give the economy a short-term boost. Repaying euro-denominated French government debt with francs would “solve” the problem of French national debt, but at the cost of destroying the country’s ability to borrow internationally in the future (think: Argentina). Were the Le Pen agenda to be implemented, it’s not clear to me how the EU could survive.
The consensus view now is that the Fillon and Mélenchon votes will gravitate to Macron, giving him a large victory in the second round of the election, between Macron and Le Pen, on May 7th (and earlier version of this post had the incorrect date). Let’s hope so.
We now have whole week until the potential US government shutdown over funding for the Trump-envisioned border wall with Mexico.