Plunge in US stock futures trigger trading curbs, Asian markets sink as Trump wins presidency

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The US dollar sank and stock plummeted as investors faced the possibility of a surprise win by Republican Donald Trump.
Pedestrians walk past an electric quotation board displaying the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Waves of selling in US stock index futures pushed losses to their trading limits as investors rushed to the exits on the prospect of a victory by Republican contender Donald Trump in the US presidential race.

In Asian markets, the bloodbath continued as Trump maintained his lead, taking key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index was down 1.4 per cent at 2,781.31 as of 3:40pm. after earlier tumbling 2.3 per cent to 2,771 points - its lowest level since the shock Brexit vote in June.

Markets also fell elsewhere in the region. Tokyo crumbled 5.4 per cent by the close of trade, while in the afternoon Hong Kong sank three per cent, Shanghai was down 0.6 per cent. Sydney lost almost two per cent and Seoul sank 2.3 per cent.

Stocks in India were down 3.3 per cent, paring a six per cent plummet on Trump's likely win, but also on the unexpected move by Minister Narendra Modi's government to pull high-denomination banknotes from circulation as part of a crackdown on tax evasion, leading ATMs to run dry.

Mexico's peso went into free-fall, diving over 13 per cent and breaking past 20 pesos per US dollar. The peso, which has become a proxy for Mr Trump's chances of becoming US president because of his anti-Mexican rhetoric, pared losses to trade around 9 per cent weaker at 19.9650 per dollar as a Trump victory appeared imminent.

The US dollar slumped 3.8 per cent to 101.50 yen while it lost almost two per cent against the euro, which bought US$1.1224 in Tokyo trading.

Dow industrial futures dived 837 points or 4.6 per cent wile E-mini futures on the S&P 500 Index plunged 5 per cent or 106 points at nearly noon in New York. The rules are triggered when the contracts decline 5 per cent from a reference price that is calculated in the last 30 seconds of trading on the previous day. The curb means the contract cannot trade at a lower price for the remainder of the overnight session.

Safe haven assets soared with spot gold jumping 3.5 per cent US$1,319.70 and yen jumping 1 per cent.

The Singapore dollar held its ground, hovering at around the S$1.3878 level.

With Mr Trump having rallied from a double-digit deficit in some polls to overtake Mrs Clinton, analysts drew parallels with Britain's shock EU exit vote.

And with Asian markets the first to trade on the results on Wednesday, investors across the region are watching the numbers with bated breath.

Investors have tended to see Mrs Clinton as a more status quo candidate, while Mr Trump's stances on foreign policy, trade and immigration have unnerved the market.

Said Mr Kevin Scully, executive chairman of research house NRA Capital: "The market has been quite volatile for the last couple of weeks. Everyone has been aware of the uncertainty. If Trump comes in, it may be disruptive to the economy. Hillary Clinton is more predictable. If he comes in, the Fed may delay the rate hike which will provide liquidity to the market and soak up any knee-jerk reaction to the sell-off."

Mr Trump is doing well in the early voting counting in several battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. There are 538 electoral votes available and the winner needs 270.

Analysts have pointed out that regardless of who wins, there could be uncertainty over the future of US foreign policy and trade relations, which could affect Asian manufacturers and export-dependent economies.

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