May 7, 2017 / 11:56 PM / 3 months ago

HIGHLIGHTS-French presidential election at 0045 GMT

4 Min Read

May 8 (Reuters) - Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron has been elected French president by a wider than expected margin after defeating far-right Marine Le Pen with about 66 percent of the votes.

The former banker's clear run-off victory will bring relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval.

Markets look set to post modest gains after anticipating a Macron victory, but the euro hit a six-month high above $1.10.

Near-record abstentions and a record number of invalid votes underscored the divisions that Macron must overcome as he tries to build a majority in parliamentary elections next month.

Main story.

Results/Projections

* With virtually all France's 47-million electorate accounted for, the interior ministry said Macron was on 66.06 percent and Le Pen on 33.94 percent.

* 11.5 percent of votes cast were blank or spoiled (beating the previous record of 6.42 percent in 1969). The abstention rate of 25.38 percent was the second highest since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958 (record 31.1 percent in 1969).

* Final polls published before the run-off had placed Macron on 62-63 percent, Le Pen on 37-38 percent.

* Macron's party and its centrist allies are set to come out on top in the first round of a legislative election next month, according to two polls late on Sunday.

Candidate Remarks

* Macron pledges to heal deep divisions that led people to vote for extremes on right or left and to try to bring European institutions closer to the peoples of Europe.

* Macron says it is essential to build up a parliamentary majority to carry out much-needed changes.

* Le Pen says her National Front party will be completely overhauled after Sunday's defeat to make a new political force.

* Le Pen says her nationalist movement is now the main opposition force, urges "all patriots" to join

Domestic Reaction

* Former French Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls calls for a broad parliamentary majority around Macron.

* Florian Philippot, deputy leader of the Le Pen's National Front says Macron's win is a victory of financial oligarchy.

* Left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon, who scored 19 percent in the first round, urges voters to mobilise for parliamentary elections.

* Left-wing CGT union calls for demonstration on May 8 to mark the start of Macron's presidency.

Foreign Reaction

* European leaders hail Macron's win as a vote for European unity and a blow to political forces that had sought to build on last year's Brexit vote to tear apart the EU.

* EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he is delighted Macron defended a strong and progressive Europe.

* Macron speaks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, promising to visit Berlin soon, and discusses Brexit with UK Prime Minister Teresa May.

* U.S. President Donald Trump tweets that he is looking forward to working with Macron

Analysis

* Battered Europe has won a reprieve with Macron's victory, but analysts warn the populist tide may rise again.

* After a decade of slow growth, rising unemployment and dwindling competitiveness, Macron is promising a series of economic reforms but faces daunting obstacles.

Markets

* Euro pushed above $1.10 for the first time in six months; markets look set for a limited relief rally.

* Euro had closed on Friday at $1.0997.

* U.S. stock index futures edge up 0.2 percent.

* INSTANT VIEW-Investors relieved.

Timeline

* Macron's rise from unknown adviser

* France's mould-breaking presidential election

Next Steps

* New president's first month in office

* Monday: Macron's first day as president-elect will include a ceremony for the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, alongside President Francois Hollande. He will also resign from the presidency of his En Marche political party.

Take a Look

* Full summary of Reuters election coverage

Compiled by Tim Hepher; Editing by Gus Trompiz

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