Europe exhales, euro eases on Macron win

Europe exhales, euro eases on Macron win

Emmanuel Macron's landslide victory over anti-EU Marine Le Pen didn't trigger a rally in the euro, which had been gaining since late April, but global stocks did extend their rally and crude oil halted its slide.

Emmanuel Macron & Marine Le Pen |
Emmanuel Macron & Marine Le Pen | Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0

Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old leader of a new party, En Marche!, received over 66% of the votes in France's presidential election. Rival Marine Le Pen, of the National Front party, received roughly 34% in the runoff election, or about 11 million votes. To be precise, Macron received 66.1% of the votes cast for a candidate. 

The actual second-place finisher was "neither," as shown by the 16 million people who turned in a blank or defaced ballot. Beside those 16 million are the 12 million registered voters who abstained by simply not voting. France normally has high voter turn-out; this year saw the worst abstention rate since 1969. For comparison, consider that in 2002, Jacques Chirac defeated Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, with 78% of the vote as people of all parties united to reject the National Front.

While it may be bad news for Le Pen that she got fewer votes than either of the Non groups, the news for Macron is less rosy than his landslide might suggest. First of all, the second-largest group was people who took the time and effort to go to the polls specifically to say that neither candidate represented them. Add the abstainers and the combined 28 million dwarfs Macron's 21 million votes. 

If Macron couldn't win their support running against an openly racist candidate who never articulated a clear economic policy beyond rejection of European unity, Macron has much work ahead to get the French public to believe in him. The best way for him to do that may be to get them to once again believe in France—a France that is a leader in the EU and the world, and a nation that can turn diversity and openness into economic advantage. 

With so much work ahead, the euro responded with understandable ennui, falling off but not undoing the pre-election rally of last week. Global stocks rallied overnight to dip Monday morning on profit-taking. The general sense is one of relief, but not yet excitement. With earnings coming up, that rally may come, but many markets may trade in a range for a while. If that range continues to be wide and volatile, it will make for great short-term trading opportunities

As for the next big political events in Europe, the UK will hold its election on June 8 and may follow it with a parliamentary vote on Brexit along with negotiations with the European Commission. Then on September 24, Angela Merkel will try for another term as Germany's chancellor. 

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