Global capital markets reeled on Friday after Britain voted to leave the European Union, with $2 trillion in value wiped from equity bourses worldwide, while money poured into safe-haven gold and government bonds. Sterling suffered a record plunge to a 31-year low.
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 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 nearly 5 percent and the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to lows last seen in 2012 at 1.5445 percent.
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 EUR= as investors feared for its very future.
Sterling was last down 7.6 percent at $1.3751 GBP=, 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.