NEW YORK: After Britain voted to leave the European Union, Global markets lost about $2 trillion in value on Friday while sterling suffered a record one-day plunge to a 31-year low and money poured into safe-haven gold and government bonds.
The blow to investor confidence and the uncertainty the vote has sparked could keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year, and even spark a new round of emergency policy easing from major central banks.
The move blindsided investors, who had expected Britain to vote to stay in the EU, and sparked sharp repricing across asset classes. Mainland European equity markets took the brunt of selling as investors feared the vote could destabilize the 28-member bloc by prompting more referendums. The traditional safe-harbor assets of top-rated government debt, the Japanese yen and gold all jumped. Spot gold rose over 4 percent and the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to a low of 1.406 percent, last seen in 2012, but climbed higher in afternoon trading.
Stocks tumbled in Europe. Frankfurt and Paris each fell 7 percent to 8 percent. Italian and Spanish markets posted their sharpest one-day drops ever, falling more than 12 percent led by a dive in European bank stocks. Italy’s Unicredit fell 24 percent while Spain’s Banco Santander fell 20 percent.
London’s FTSE, however, dropped 3.2 percent, with some investors speculating that the plunge in sterling could benefit Britain’s economy.
“Big institutional customers saw this morning’s event as a much more longer-term opportunity. So names that were really dislocated found plenty of bids, plenty of support,” said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O’Neil Securities in New York.
Still, Britain’s big banks took a $100 billion battering, with Lloyds, Barclays and RBS plunging as much as 30 percent, although they cut those losses in half later in the day.
Stocks on Wall Street traded down around 3 percent, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping as much as 544 points.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 520.19 points, or 2.89 percent, to 17,490.88. The S&P 500 slid 65.75 points, or 3.11 percent, to 2,047.57 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 182.46 points, or 3.72 percent, to 4,727.58.
MSCI’s all-country world stock index fell 4.4 percent.
Voting results showed a 51.9/48.1 percent split for leaving, setting the UK on an uncertain path and dealing the largest setback to European efforts to forge greater unity since World War Two.
The British pound dived by 18 U.S. cents at one point, easily the biggest fall in living memory, to its lowest since 1985. The euro slid 3 percent to $1.1050 as investors feared for its very future.
Sterling was last down 7.4 percent at $1.3775, having carved out a range of $1.3228 to $1.5022. The fall was even larger than during the global financial crisis and the currency was moving two or three cents in the blink of an eye.
The Bank of England, European Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China all said they were ready to provide liquidity if needed to ensure global market stability.