A Primer On The French Election

Traders and Wall Street are making a big deal out of the French election. Here's what Americans need to know.

Given that traders and the hype machine on Wall Street seem intent on making a big deal out of the French election, here are a few things Americans need to know:

  1. The French election will take place on Sunday, April 23. However, this is really a test run. There are 10 candidates, but only four count, and the top two vote-getters will face off in a May 7 vote.
  2. The anti-European Union candidate, Marine Le Pen is almost certain to win one spot; the other is up for grabs.
  3. One of the other three is effectively a communist but is oddly not as anti-EU as Le Pen. A combination win by Le Pen and the communist would be the worst outcome for stocks and the best outcome for bonds.

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  4. Experts believe Le Pen would lose to anyone in the runoff on May 7. But what are expert opinions worth when it comes to elections these days?
  5. Regardless of who wins, France will remain in the EU for years. Even if Le Pen wins, she would have to get Parliament to approve an EU exit election and then would have to win that election. French voters are not happy with the current government,but they are happy being in the European Union. Polls show more than 70% support the EU.
  6. This election is an event for fast-money traders. Logic argues this weekend’s vote shouldn’t matter, but bond traders will make sure it does if the outcome is unfavorable.
  7. This is not only a test-run election; it’s also a test run for traders’ reactions to the election. Assuming Le Pen is one of the two survivors, tensions will rise sharply over the next two weeks. Tension equals bond rallies.
  8. The bottom line: This election might mean something in the long-term, but it means next to nothing in the short- to intermediate-term to the global economy.

Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.

April 20, 2017

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