Asia stock markets started the day up slightly Friday, but then quickly tumbled as results of Britain’s referendum on its European Union membership began to come in.
The pound sank against the U.S. dollar and the euro as early returns showed the Leave and Remain counts nearly tied.
Sydney’s ASX 200 kicked off the day up just over a quarter of a percentage point, but then very rapidly fell 2.5 percent. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 also started up slightly but two hours later was down 1.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index began the day down almost half a percentage point.
The Australian dollar reversed course after rising at the start of the day, and was off nearly 1 percent against the U.S. dollar, although the yen held on to its early gains. Gold was up about 1 percent in Asian markets.
Traders in financial markets around the world have been bracing for this day. Should the campaign to leave the EU win, there are predictions the British pound would weaken quickly, prompting investors to dump British assets; that could roil markets around the globe.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and market economists have warned that the uncertainty caused by the so-called Brexit referendum could cause substantial economic impact.
The final vote tally was expected after 2 a.m. in London (0100 UTC).