The U.S. dollar sank and stock markets slammed into reverse in wild trade on Wednesday as investors faced the real possibility of a shock win by Republican Donald Trump that could upend the global political order.
Every new exit poll in the U.S. presidential election showed the race to be a nail-biter, sending investors stampeding to safe-haven assets.
Sovereign bonds and gold shot higher while the Mexican peso went into near free-fall as ABC News gave the key battleground state of Ohio to Trump.
As of 0325 GMT, Trump was leading Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 45 Electoral College votes, with a tally of 167-122.
It takes 270 to win.
Markets fear a Trump victory could cause international economic and trade turmoil, discouraging the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates in December as long expected.
Fed fund futures were even starting to toy with the idea of a cut in rates next year <0#FF:>.
The scale of the scare was clear in the Mexican peso, where the dollar surged over 10 percent in the biggest daily move in two decades.
The peso has become a touchstone for sentiment on the election as Trump’s trade policies are seen as damaging to its export-heavy economy.
But the story was very different against the safe-haven yen, with the dollar shedding 3 percent to 102.02 yen. The euro gained 1.5 percent to $1.1190.
South Korean authorities were thought to have intervened to steady their currency, and dealers were wondering if central banks globally would step in to calm nerves.
U.S. stock futures recoiled more than 4 percent, a loss reminiscent of the carnage that followed the British vote to leave the European Union in June.
Asian stocks followed, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan down more than 3 percent, while the Nikkei sank nearly 5 percent.
With voting completed in more than two-thirds of the 50 U.S. states, the race was still too close to call in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states that could be vital to deciding who wins the presidency.
Trump held a slight lead in Florida, while Fox News projected Clinton would take Virginia.
Markets have tended to favor Clinton as a status quo candidate who would be considered a safe pair of hands at home on the world stage.
“In contrast, a Trump victory would trigger massive uncertainty that would likely undermine risk assets at least initially, which in turn could preclude a Fed rate hike this year,” warned Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS.
Sovereign bonds flew ahead, pushing yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes down sharply to 1.77 percent. It had briefly touched a six-month high around 1.8960 percent.
In commodity markets, gold climbed 2.8 percent to $1,312 an ounce as the dollar slid.
Oil turned tail on concerns over the global economic outlook, with U.S. crude shedding $1.34 to $43.63 a barrel, while Brent fell $1.24 to $44.80. [O/R]