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UPDATE 1-En garde!: Paris bankers brace for restless night of French election

 (Adds detail on SocGen planned conference call, 4th paragraph)
    By Maya Nikolaeva
    PARIS, April 20 Paris bankers and brokers will
be on call, ready to scoot to the office as results of the first
round of the roller-coaster French presidential election start
to dribble in this Sunday.
    Their workload will depend on the outcome of the tight race
that could potentially see two extremes -- the far right Marine
Le Pen and the communist-backed leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon --
make it to the second round.        
    But the preparations underway already reflect the bankers'
experience in facing market volatility following Britain's shock
vote to leave the European Union and U.S. presidential elections
last year.
    Societe Generale           said it would be holding a
conference call on the evening of Sunday, April 23 with some of
its economists and strategists to discuss the first round
results. 
    Traders and financial analysts in some of the world's
biggest investment firms in London will also be on standby for
advising clients on Sunday evening and also primed for pre-dawn
starts on Monday. However those contacted by Reuters said they
would leave actual overnight trading in the euro or any cash
bond or equity transactions to their Asia operations.
     First exit polls are expected at around 1800 GMT on Sunday
or 2000 Paris time. 
    In Paris, French asset manager La Francaise with 60 billion
euros ($64 billion) under management has a special task force in
place for the election that will be on call or could even meet
in the office on Sunday evening to decide on what to advise
clients on Monday.
    "In any case, the task force will meet early on Monday ...
and have a strong shot of coffee in order to brief teams," one
of the asset manager's staff said.
    One reason, brokerage Nomura said, is that it will be the
April 23 vote that gives investors "the most information" as to
who will be the next president after the may run-off.
    "Jean-Luc Melenchon has seen such a rise in support that it
is now a true four-way race," Nomura's forex strategists said.
   "The gaps between candidates in the first round are close to
the margins of error, while in the second they are far apart and
in the 'safe zone' polling numbers."
    The latest polls show centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right
leader Le Pen narrowly beating other candidates in the first
round, followed by the conservative Francois Fillon and far-left
Melenchon.
    Melenchon proposes a 100-billion-euro economic stimulus plan
funded by government borrowing, corporate nationalisation in
some sectors, devaluation of the euro currency, withdrawal from
NATO and possible exit from the European Union.             
    His sudden rise in opinion surveys is worrying many 
investors, because various poll scenarios show he could win
should he reach the second round.
    Le Pen does not off much solace. She plans to leave the euro
currency and hold a vote on European Union membership.
                
    "I will be ready on Sunday-Monday, but my hope is that there
will be no disastrous scenario and I won't have to work," a
London-based analyst covering French banks said.
     
    HEDGING
    Some investment banks and asset managers have already
reduced and hedged their exposure to assets that could bear the
brunt of volatility, depending on the outcome of the elections.
   "As for fixed income investors, they have also already sold
out, because there was a buyer –- the (European Central Bank) ,
which bought hundreds of billions of euros (of debt). There is
no big reason to have a long position on France," said
Jean-Francois Legoux, a strategist at UBS Global Asset
Management, based in Paris.
    Forex brokerage Saxo Bank in Paris said it tried to make
sure all clients were aware of potential risks, while offering
all the money management tools so that they don't have a
significant exposure with no protection in the markets.
   "In any event, just as with Brexit, any spasm is bound to be
very short-lived," one Geneva-based trader said.
    ($1 = 0.9345 euros)

    
 (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by
Jeremy Gaunt)
  
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