Pound suffers record fall as Brexit poll raises potential for Leave victory

The strong showing by Britain's Leave camp in the European Union referendum has been punishing on the pound.
The strong showing by Britain's Leave camp in the European Union referendum has been punishing on the pound.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON, SINGAPORE - The strong showing by Britain's Leave camp in the European Union referendum has been punishing on the pound, which suffered its biggest-ever fall on Friday morning (June 24) than it did even during the global financial crisis

The British currency collapsed as far as US$1.4152, having stretched to a high for the year at US$1.5022 just five hours before.

The loss of over 5 per cent was even larger than during the global financial crisis.

Mr Andrew Ng, head of treasury and markets at DBS Bank, told the DBS institutional investors symposium that he was in the trading room before the symposium had started and noticed the pound swinging by 5 to 6 per cent.

Mr Robert Rennie, chief currency strategist at Westpac in Sydney, told Reuters: "It's very jittery and I suppose that's very much going to be the order of the day until we see final results being announced. We are just going to roll from individual result to individual result."

The pound also weakened 4 per cent against the Singapore dollar and 6.5 per cent against the Japanese yen.

By 9.30 am Singapore time, the Remain camp was in the lead but betting odds were for the first time showing a greater probability of Britain leaving the union, as several parts of Britain were turning in stronger-than-expected showings for the Leave camp.

A spooked euro turned tail to hit US$1.1186, down 1.7 per cent, as an actual vote for Britain to leave could endanger the future of the entire bloc, and its single currency.

A YouGov poll had earlier found 52 per cent of respondents said they voted to remain in the EU while 48 per cent voted to leave. Yet early official results showed the margins were nail-bitingly tight.

Traders were particularly spooked by returns from Sunderland showing a large majority for the Leave camp and just a narrow win for Remain in Newcastle.

"Newcastle was a squeaky win for Remain but Sunderland was a huge kick in the ribs and the bottom has fallen out of the pound," said Mr Jeremy Cook, chief economist at international payments company, World First.

"These markets are thin, liquidity is poor and a recovery is obviously possible but those traders who were looking to book a quick profit before a restful night's sleep have had their ideas shattered."