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HIGHLIGHTS-French presidential election at 2300 GMT

(Updates with late results, further reaction)

PARIS, April 23 (Reuters) - Centrist EMMANUEL MACRON has taken a big step towards the French presidency by winning the first round of voting and qualifying for the May 7 runoff alongside far-right leader MARINE LE PEN.

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Here are some of the main results and reactions.


* With 43.8 million out of the 47-million-strong electorate accounted for, the interior ministry said Emmanuel Macron was on 23.73 percent and Marine Le Pen on 21.85 percent.

* Conservative Francois Fillon was on 19.96 percent, left-wing contender Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.25 percent and Socialist Benoit Hamon on 6.28 percent.

* Remaining candidates had a combined total of 8.92 percent.


* Macron tells supporters: "I want straightaway to start building a government majority and a new transformation." An ally says the results suggest a deep malaise in French society.

* Le Pen refers to Macron as the "heir to Francois Hollande" and says he will not bring the change France needs. Her campaign says the second round will be a "referendum on globalisation".

* Candidates of the defeated mainstream parties, conservative Francois Fillon and Socialist Benoit Hamon, urge voters to get behind Macron in the second round.

* Left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon refuses to back either candidate and says "Media-crats and oligarchs are celebrating".


* Conservative newspaper Le Figaro says the choice between Macron and Le Pen is clear. But it warns of a downside for the centre-right in backing Macron, since it "provides an immense service to the National Front by establishing it as the sole opposition force".

* Left-wing paper Liberation says Macron is "One Step Away" from the Elysee.


* The populist tsunami that slammed into Britain last year, before sweeping across the Atlantic to the United States, may have faded on the shores of France.

* Emmanuel Macron's chances of victory are better than his ability to deliver on promises of change.


* Euro surges in early trading in Asia, while in Europe French bond yields are expected to fall and French stocks to rally on relief that France has not been left with a choice between two radical, anti-EU candidates.

* Euro jumps 1.5 percent, trades as high as $1.0940 in Asia.

* "Markets will be reassured that the dreaded Le Pen versus Melenchon run-off has been avoided. Moreover, polls have repeatedly suggested that Macron is likely to comfortably beat Le Pen in the second round. As a result, we expect some recovery in French bond prices, while the euro is also likely to benefit," says Diego Iscaro, economist at IHS Markit.

* Other market reaction


Full summary of Reuters election coverage

(Reporting by Tim Hepher)