British Vote Rocks World Financial Markets

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -
Screens, one which displays the rate of the British pound which drops against the US dollar (R) after the British referendum, are seen in a trading room in Paris, France, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
Display screens, one of which shows the rate of the British pound dropping against the U.S. dollar (R.) after the British referendum, are seen in a trading room in Paris, Friday. (Reuters/Jacky Naegelen)

World financial markets were rocked Friday by Britain’s unprecedented vote to leave the European Union, with stock markets and oil prices crashing and the pound hitting its lowest level in three decades.

The uncharted, unexpected path of a European Union without Britain sparked the sell-offs, with more jitters expected as global markets try to digest the shock result.

Tokyo stocks plummeted about 8 percent, their biggest fall since 2008, while South Korea’s Kospi tumbled about 3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 futures tanked 8.3 percent.

Crude oil prices and U.S. futures also took a big hit. The British pound plummeted more than 10 percent in six hours while the yen surged about 3 percent to the U.S. dollar as investors seeking safety snapped up the Japanese currency.

By early afternoon in Asia, a tally by the BBC showed Britain had voted to leave the 28-nation European Union by about a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. Japan’s Nikkei 225 plunged 8.3 percent to 14,897.32 while South Korea’s Kospi sank 3.4 percent to 1,918.70. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 4.8 percent to 19,866.20 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 3.4 percent to 5,012.20. Stocks in Shanghai, Taiwan, Sydney and Southeast Asian countries were sharply lower.

U.S. futures took a dive. Dow futures fell 3.4 percent and S&P futures nosedived 5 percent.

“Financial markets throughout the night have been chaotic to say the least, and this may continue as the day progresses,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London. “All eyes will now be on central banks around the world to see how they respond to these market developments, particularly the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.”

On Thursday, Wall Street finished with rallies as pre-poll forecasts showed that Britain would keep the EU membership. Asian stock markets opened the day higher but the mood turned sour as results started to show that the “leave” vote would win. As the results increasingly pointed to the EU exit, investors dumped stocks and other risky assets.

The results sent the pound on a wild ride. It rose to its highest point for the year at $1.50 before tumbling more than 10 percent to a low of $1.3303, its lowest level since 1985.

In other currencies, the dollar fell to 101.51 yen from 104.80 yen while the euro weakened to $1.097 from $1.132.

Benchmark U.S. crude plummeted 6.4 percent, or $3.17, to $46.94 per barrel in New York. Brent Crude, the benchmark for international oil price, fell 6.1 percent, or $3.11, to $47.80 per barrel in London.