French Election: Hollande, Merkel Congratulate Macron

Screams of joy, sighs of relief and rousing dance music.

"I do believe Marine Le Pen will become the French president".

"Congratulations to @EmmanuelMacron, new president of #France". It's been a hard moment - the country is so divided.

Her supporters at a National Front election night gathering in Paris put on a courageous face. "If that was the case, I would have kept working for them", Macron answered. Supporters danced, jumped and sang.

Parisians lined streets outside his campaign headquarters as Macron left in a motorcade to join the party at the Louvre.

"Financial markets priced out nearly all of the probability of a Le Pen victory following the first round of elections".

The Interior Ministry earlier said 65.3% of voters had cast ballots by 5pm local time, a drop on the level seen at the same stage in 2012 and 2007.

Conceding defeat, Le Pen said: "My dear compatriots, overseas and at home".

But analysts say the result lifts a huge amount of uncertainty for the European economy, which is just picking up some momentum after years of financial crises and stagnation. She obtained about 38 per cent of the vote, more than double the National Front's previous best.

Macron's team successfully skirted several attempts to derail his campaign - by hacking its communications and distributing purportedly leaked documents - that were reminiscent of the hacking of Democratic Party communications during Hillary Clinton's United States election campaign.

Le Pen had threatened to take France out of the European Union in a continuation of the populist nationalism that saw Britain's Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said French voters had chosen a "European future".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a statement congratulating Macron, describing his election as a "symbolic victory" over an inward-looking vision and protectionism.

While a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "Congratulations Emmanuel Macron".

"Your victory is a victory for a strong and united Europe and for French-German friendship", wrote Steffen Seibert in French and German on Twitter.

Paul Hatfield, London-based chief investment officer at Alcentra, part of BNY Mellon Investment Management, said: "With populism very much dead now in Europe, investor sentiment should continue to improve with another move to risk-on".

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron is preparing the groundwork for his transition to power, with plans for a visit to Germany, a name change for his political movement and an appearance on Monday with the man whose job he assumes.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Vive La France".

Macron's victory extends a losing run for Putin, who had banked on political upheaval in Western capitals bringing in new leaders better disposed toward Russian Federation.

The 48-year-old nationalist said her score made the FN the country's "biggest opposition force" and announced she would lead the FN into general elections in June.

After a campaign characterised by energetic, bombastic speeches and rallies, Macron used his first speech as the president-elect of France to strike a more measured and statesmanlike tone. "I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens". Later, after Fillon's prospects faded under the weight of a nepotism scandal, Putin took the unusual step of granting a Kremlin audience to far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who was Macron's opponent in Sunday's run-off. He tweeted: "Well done anyway. millions of patriots voted for you!" "We called each other all the time, we spent hours on the phone, hours and hours", Brigitte Macron recalled in a televised documentary.

"This is a victory for the French people and for European cooperation".

"He led a courageous, pro-European campaign and stands for openness to the world and decisively for the social market economy". "If Marine sticks in there, she can win in 2022".