Markets went into free fall Wednesday and the Mexican peso hit a record low as Donald Trump appeared to be moving into the lead in the race for the White House.
Safe haven assets rallied as investors went running for cover, with the yen and gold rushing higher.
Initial confidence that market favourite Hillary Clinton would win the knife-edge race was wiped out as results showed the firebrand tycoon appeared to be heading for victory in the key state of Florida.
Clinton is considered by many investors to be a safer bet than Trump, who is seen as a loose cannon with policies many fear could wreck the world’s top economy.
“Put your seat belts on because this is going to be a bumpy ride,” Chad Morganlander, a money manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in Florham Park, New Jersey told Bloomberg News.
“Investors will be moving in a chaotic fashion to get ahead of the information flow.”
Tokyo ended the morning session 2.2 percent down, having been up more than one percent at one point, while Hong fell 2.3 percent and Shanghai sank 0.7 percent.
Sydney gave up 2.4 percent, Seoul shed 2.8 percent and Singapore dived 1.4 percent. Wellington plunged two percent while there were also losses of more than one percent for Taipei and Jakarta.
Futures on the Dow on Wall Street plunged 2.6 percent.
– ‘Scary’ -“It’s quite scary,” Nader Naeimi, the Sydney-based head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors, said.
“The slightest move towards Trump moved the market very quickly. The slightest change in the odds is amplifying market moves and this just shows there’s a lot at stake.”
The Mexican peso — which was battered by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric earlier in the campaign — hit a record low against the dollar.
The greenback soared above 20 pesos for the first time in history, up more than 10 percent from its earlier low.
The peso is considered a proxy of Trump’s chances because of his anti-Mexican rhetoric — including his pledge to remove undocumented immigrants, build a border wall and tear up a trade deal.
However the dollar tumbled against the yen as investors rushed into the Japanese unit, which is considered a safe bet in times of uncertainty and turmoil. The greenback was below 102 yen, from above 105 Tuesday.
The euro also rose 1.3 percent against the dollar, while gold soared 2.3 percent to $1,312.20.
Oil prices plunged, with WTI sinking three percent and Brent more than two percent lower.
– Key figures around 0320 GMT -Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.2 percent at 17,788.90 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.3 percent at 22,375.95
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,124.76
Dollar/Mexican peso: UP at 20.0880 from 18.6152 pesos late Tuesday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2406 from $1.2378 Tuesday
Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.30 pence from 89.03 pence
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1150 from $1.1020
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 101.90 yen from 105.14 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.31 at $43.67 per barrel
Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN $1.06 at $44.98 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 18,332.43 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 6,843.13 (close)
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