By Samuel Indyk and Julien Ponthus
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron has a more than 90% chance of winning Sunday's presidential runoff vote against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, the odds offered by UK political bookmakers showed on Wednesday.
Macron has seen his lead in opinion polls edge higher over the past few days to over 55% on average against 45% in favor of his rival whom he will face in a debate later on Wednesday.
The websites of William Hill and Paddy Power gave odds implying a 90.9% chance for the incumbent, while the Betfair Exchange had 92.6% and Ladbrokes 94.1%.
High odds in favor of a political event are, however, no guarantees of the outcome. In 2016, for instance, bets were overwhelmingly in favour of Britain voting to stay within the European Union in the June 23 referendum vote. On the day of the vote, Betfair gave the 'remain' vote 88.5% odds of winning, but the outcome went the other way.
While French financial markets have experienced some volatility ahead of the first round of the election when Le Pen captured 48.5% of voter intentions in an opinion poll, Macron's current lead has reassured investors.
The euro has steadied below the $1.10 levels, above a pandemic low of around $1.0650, while the widely watched French and German bond yield spread has settled around 45 basis points, well below the highs of above 80 basis points seen before the previous election in 2017.
Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays, warned against complacency among investors.
"A late shift cannot be discounted given the high number of undecided voters", he wrote in a note, adding the results would likely be tighter than in 2017, when Macron won about two-thirds of the vote.
"A Le Pen win would mean material uncertainty for France and the EU, so we see risks as asymmetrically skewed to the downside, as the risk premium around the French election embedded in markets at the moment feels relatively small to us", Cau said.
The debate between Macron and Le Pen, which starts at 1900 GMT, will be the only one between the two candidates.
Centrist Macron and Le Pen are seeking to attract voters who backed far-left leader Jean Luc Melenchon after he came third in the first round, with about 22% of the vote.
Melenchon has not given any specific voting instructions for the runoff but urged his followers not to vote for Le Pen.
(Reporting by Samuel Indyk and Julien Ponthus; Editing by Bernadette Baum)