UPDATE: French election: When are the results?

04/23/17 04:17 PM EDT

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Exit polls are expected at 8 p.m. Paris time, or 2 p.m. Eastern

Investors are nervously counting down to the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, which has raised worries it may rattle the foundations of the European Union (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-dazzle-voters-on-the-campaign-trail-communist-backed-french-candidate-turns-to-holograms-2017-04-11).

Polls are still nail-bitingly tight, so the election result is far from as clear-cut as it has looked in previous years.

The first exit polls from French media are published when the last polling stations close at 8 p.m. Paris time, or 2 p.m. Eastern Time, and should give a fairly accurate picture of which two candidates have won the most support. Those two will compete in a runoff vote on Sunday, May 7 and the winner will become France's next president.

French law prohibits local media from publishing exit polls before 8 p.m., but indications may leak out earlier Sunday if foreign media carry out their own surveys. The final result usually becomes clear around midnight (6 p.m. Eastern).

The President of the Constitutional Council Laurent Fabius will announce the official result on Wednesday April 26 at 5 p.m. Paris time, or 11 a.m. Eastern Time.

Read: The next president of France will be a demagogue (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-next-president-of-france-will-be-a-demagogue-2017-04-05)

For impatient investors, preliminary turnout figures should be released through the day. The Interior Ministry will publish its first turnout estimate at noon, followed by another at 5 p.m.

"If the final turnout is low, this will likely favor sympathizers of Macron and Fillon, as well as the older generations--categories where polls suggest participation levels are the highest. Conversely, if the turnout is high, then the anti-establishment extremes are likely to do well," economists at Citigroup said in a note.

The race is effectively down to four candidates, each currently polling at around 20% support. Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen are the favorites to win the first round and meet in the runoff vote in May.

However, after a late-campaign surge in support for scandal-ridden conservative candidate François Fillon and far-left euroskeptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the election is still seen as an open contest.

Read:How to dazzle voters on the campaign trail? Upstart French candidate turns to holograms (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-dazzle-voters-on-the-campaign-trail-communist-backed-french-candidate-turns-to-holograms-2017-04-11)

"Investors (and French voters) are getting worried about a 'nightmare' scenario in which Le Pen faces Mélenchon on 7 May, leaving them with a hard choice between two anti-globalization, anti-EU and pro-Russia candidates," Citigroup said.

See:How France's hotly contested election could rattle markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19)

-Sara Sjolin; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


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04-23-17 1617ET

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