France's Le Pen upstages rival Macron with stop at factory

During his address, Mr Hollande claimed the purchasing power of the French people would be directly hit if Ms Le Pen wins the run-off vote on 7 May - with "unprecedented price increases" in stores and thousands of jobs being lost.

Emmanuel Macron is a political novice, who enjoys support of the French political establishment only in so far as it is necessary to beat Marine Le Pen.

Macron is the "person who defends the values that allow the French to unite faced with such a grave set of circumstances in France, Europe and the world", he said.

The far-right presidential candidate launched a scathing attack against her centrist rival, calling him "weak" in the face of Islamist terrorism.

And now Ms. Le Pen has resigned as leader of the Front National and says she will run as an independent in the second round. Mr Macron is "Hollande's baby", she said in the interview.

Le Pen is the daughter of Jean Marie Le Pen.

As Mr Macron was meeting with union leaders from the Whirlpool plant in northern France, Ms Le Pen popped up outside the factory itself, amid its workers in bright-yellow hazard vests, and declared herself the candidate of France's workers.

Stock markets rally with Emmanuel Macron in lead to be French president

Numerous voters who spoke to The Canadian Press said they weren't overly enthusiastic about Macron but believed he would eliminate Le Pen in the second round.

Analysts said the euro's dip from its session high likely indicated profit-taking rather than doubts about a Macron victory over Le Pen in the second round.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 percent, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon received 19.58 percent of the vote.

Under France's Fifth Republic, the president is the head of state, very much like a monarch in other countries, a role described by founder Charles De Gaulle as being above party politics. "I am appealing to patriots, wherever they come from".

"One can feel proud, Italian in my case and a proud European, a proud French and a proud European, as Emmanuel feels, without denying the need to change and reform also our living together in the union, but putting all the energy we have in that.", Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief said.

Octavio Marenzi, chief executive of the financial research consultancy Opimas in Paris, added: "Macron will be reassuring to markets, with his pledge to lower corporate taxes and to lighten the administrative burden on firms".

Jewish as well as Muslim leaders have lamented the success of the French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in getting through to the second round in the presidential contest, and warned voters now to reject the "dangerous" candidate.

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  • Ronnie Bowen