Wall Street opens higher as Britain votes on EU membership

US stocks rallied on Thursday, led by bank shares, as Wall Street bet strongly that Britain is voting to remain part of the European Union.
A volunteer hands an unmarked ballot paper to a voter inside a bus being used as a temporary polling station in Kingston-Upon-Hull, northern England, on June 23, 2016.
A volunteer hands an unmarked ballot paper to a voter inside a bus being used as a temporary polling station in Kingston-Upon-Hull, northern England, on June 23, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street opened higher for the fourth straight day on Thursday as Britain seemed to swing towards remaining in the European Union, a scenario that would avert a possible financial crisis.

Markets across the globe have been rattled over the past two weeks as investors speculated about the consequences of Britain's exit from the European union, including the unraveling of the bloc.

The "Remain" camp has found 52 per cent favour, according to an Ipsos MORI poll conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday. The final result of the referendum will be known on Friday (Friday morning Singapore time).

U.S. markets also took solace in Fed Chair Janet Yellen's two-day testimony this week when she expressed optimism about the economy and downplayed the chances of a recession this year.

"The markets are the best judge of what is going to happen and they are saying that Britain will remain. The key is the strong jump in the pound," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York. "If there was any doubt that Great Britain would leave, we would see gold soaring and a rush to safe havens, but we're not seeing that."

The sterling hit a year-high on Thursday while gold, which had gained favor amid uncertainty in the past month, fell to a two-week low.

Oil prices rose despite a smaller-than-expected draw on U.S. crude as appetite for risky assets increased on better odds for Britain to remain in the EU.

CBOE Volatility Index, the market's measure of turbulence, fell 15.16 percent to 18.01, compared to its long-term average of 20.

At 9:35 a.m. ET (9:35 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 156.42 points, or 0.88 per cent, at 17,937.25. None of the 30 blue-chips stocks were in the red.

The S&P 500 was up 16.41 points, or 0.79 per cent, at 2,101.86.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 33.87 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 4,867.19.

All 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.11 per cent rise in the financial index after JPMorgan rose 1.6 per cent and Citigroup rose 2.8 per cent.