Analysis: Finally, crystal-clear clarity in French election

PARIS (AP) -- When France's presidential election turned into a political boxing match this week at the gates of an appliance factory threatened with closure, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen showed that she wields a mean right hook. Her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron, a political neophyte contesting his first election, demonstrated that he can take a solid punch to the chin.

ECB unlikely to signal stimulus end, despite French optimism

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Europe's strengthening economy dodged a banana peel when a pro-EU candidate won the first round of the French presidential election. That won't be enough, however, to make the European Central Bank signal an end to monetary stimulus program on Thursday. Nor will Sunday's result by itself fix the long-term flaws that have plagued the continent's shared currency, the euro.

The Latest: Israeli lawmaker urges French to back Macron

PARIS (AP) -- The Latest on the French presidential election (all times local): 6:50 p.m. A prominent Israeli opposition lawmaker is urging French voters to back centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff election, calling far-right contender Marine Le Pen "dangerous.

Old-guard rallies around newcomer Macron for French runoff

PARIS (AP) -- France's established parties are rallying around the man who helped shut them out of the presidential runoff, maverick centrist Emmanuel Macron -- an alliance of convenience aimed at keeping far-right Marine Le Pen out of the Elysee Palace. Support for Macron also poured in Monday from the seat of the European Union, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jewish and Muslim groups troubled by Le Pen's nationalist vision.

French vote for Macron, Le Pen shuts out mainstream politics

PARIS (AP) -- French voters shut out the country's political mainstream from the presidency for the first time in the country's modern history, and on Monday found themselves being courted across the spectrum for the runoff election. The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power.

France's far-right reaches across spectrum as runoff looms

PARIS (AP) -- France's far right is reaching out to voters who backed the defeated far-left contender, hoping to peel away voters from the extremes of the political spectrum. The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power.

Tight, tense French presidential vote echoes around world

PARIS (AP) -- Whatever the result of France's presidential election, the choice will resonate far beyond France's borders, from Syrian battlefields to Hong Kong trading floors and the halls of the U.N. Security Council. The future of Europe is at stake as this country chooses a president in an election unlike any other, one that may reshape France's post-war identity and indicate whether global populism is ascendant or on the decline.

11 candidates vie for French presidency in high-stakes race

PARIS (AP) -- From far left to far right, young to old, 11 candidates are vying for France's presidency in an election that is being watched as an indicator of populism's global appeal. The traditional contenders are joined -- and often have been overshadowed during the campaign -- by rivals pledging to scrap long-held expectations, such as France's participation in the European Union and NATO.

The Latest: French candidate Macron revels at Paris eatery

PARIS (AP) -- The Latest on the first round of France's presidential election (all times local): 12:40 a.m. Emmanuel Macron is celebrating his victory in France's first-round presidential election at a Left Bank eatery frequented by Ernest Hemingway and other artistic dignitaries. The choice to dine in La Rotonde in the Montparnasse neighborhood fits with Macron's literary leanings -- he quotes poets and philosophers in his campaign rallies.

French vote for Macron, Le Pen shuts out mainstream politics

PARIS (AP) -- French voters shut out the country's political mainstream from the presidency for the first time in the country's modern history, and on Monday found themselves being courted across the spectrum for the runoff election. The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen's path to power.

Social media timeout as French election reaches final stage

PARIS (AP) -- The final hours of many electoral campaigns are frantic affairs, dominated by last-minute pitches, late-breaking polls and massive social media campaigns aimed at drumming up turnout. Not so in France. Rules dating back more than half a century impose a 44-hour timeout ahead of the polls' closure Sunday, meaning that politicians, journalists -- and even ordinary citizens -- are supposed to refrain from broadcasting any form of "electoral propaganda.

Security tight as France prepares for presidential vote

PARIS (AP) -- Early voting began overseas Saturday in France's most nail-biting election in generations, and the 11 candidates seeking to become the country's next president silenced their campaigns as required to give voters a period of reflection. Opinion polls pointed to a tight race among the four top contenders vying to get into the May 7 presidential runoff that will decide who becomes France's next head of state.

Losses for finance, health care companies send stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks slumped Friday as financial and health care companies moved lower. Industrial companies rose as stocks continued the up-and-down pattern they've been stuck in for the last month. Stocks slumped in morning trading as banks fell in tandem with bond yields and interest rates and energy companies sank with oil prices. Strong results from Honeywell and aviation electronics maker Rockwell Collins helped industrial firms.

Melenchon's working-class rhetoric hits home in French vote

PARIS (AP) -- He's been labeled the French Fidel Castro, but his mentor in politics is the late French President Francois Mitterrand. A radical Trotskyist in his youth, he's also served as a minister in a Socialist government. It took Jean-Luc Melenchon a long time to find his own way in politics.

The Latest: Far-left candidate goes on with final event

PARIS (AP) -- The Latest on the shootings of police officers in Paris (all times local): 8:30 p.m. French far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has ended his political campaign in style -- with a cocktail. While other candidates cancelled their last sprint of campaigning Friday in light of Thursday's deadly gun attack on the Champs-Elysees avenue, the firebrand 65-year-old carried on his pre-planned event in Paris so as "not to interrupt the democratic process.

Champs-Elysees gunman had long criminal record, praised IS

PARIS (AP) -- The gunman who shot and killed a police officer on the famed Champs-Elysees just days before the French presidential vote spent 14 years in prison, including for attacking other officers, Frances's anti-terrorism prosecutor said Friday -- a lengthy criminal history that gave a jolt to an already nail-biting election and fueled growing security concerns.

Global stocks mixed ahead of French vote

BEIJING (AP) -- European stocks declined while most Asian markets rose Friday ahead of the first round of voting in France's closely watched presidential election. KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France's CAC-40 retreated 0.6 percent to 5,043.53 and London's FTSE-100 shed just under 0.1 percent to 7,124.36. Germany's DAX was little-changed at 12,023.01. On Wall Street, the future for the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 0.

Asian stocks advance after US markets rally

BEIJING (AP) -- Asian stocks rose Friday ahead of the first round of voting in France's closely watched presidential election, after Wall Street rallied on strong corporate earnings. KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent to 18,585.31 and the Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1 percent to 3,174.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.3 percent to 24,145.52 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.7 percent to 5,861.50. Seoul's Kospi rose 0.9 percent to 2,168.

Topsy-turvy French election still has surprises in store

PARIS (AP) -- A French presidential campaign that's been filled with unprecedented twists and turns still has surprises in store heading into Sunday's first-round vote. With voters in a rebellious mood and many hesitant to the end about their choices, the identities of the two candidates who will progress to a winner-takes-all May 7 runoff remain anyone's guess.

France promises proof Assad regime behind chemical attack

PARIS (AP) -- France says it will provide proof within days that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime carried out the April 4 chemical attack in Syria that killed at least 90 people. Speaking Wednesday evening on French TV, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: "We will provide proof that the regime did indeed organize these strikes with chemical weapons.