Asian stocks, pound continue to fall in Brexit aftershocks; STI down 0.5%

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From currencies to stock markets, global investors are still in the dark on Monday as confusion reigns over the impact of Britain's vote to leave the European union.
A pedestrian holding an umbrella looks at an electronic stock board displaying the closing figure of the Nikkei Stock Average outside a securities firm in Tokyo. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks fell and the British pound tumbled more than 2 per cent in early trade on Monday (June 27) as markets struggled to shake off deep uncertainty sparked by Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

Singapore's Strait Times Index fell 0.5 per cent on opening after a 2.09 per cent plunge on Friday. The STI was trading 0.46 per cent lower at 2,722.79 as at 9:56 am

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.2 per cent in volatile trade as companies with British exposure in particular came under more pressure.

Japan's Nikkei, however, rose 1.8 per cent, a partial rebound after Friday's hefty 7.9 per cent fall.

The British pound fell 2.3 per cent to US$1.3388, still some distance from the 31-year low of US$1.3228 touched during Friday's wild trade.

Against the Singapore dollar, the pound was down 2 per cent at 1.8199 from its close last week of 1.8567, but off the low of 1.8020 hit on Friday.

Against the yen, sterling fell more than 2 per cent to 136.85 yen. That was more than 14 per cent below its levels early on Friday when investors believed the "remain" camp would win the referendum.

US S&P mini futures, the world's most traded stock futures, fell 0.7 per cent to 2,004 on Monday, edging near Friday's 3-1/2 month low of 1,999.

US interest rate futures have completely priced out chance of a rate hike by the Federal Reserve this year and pricing in less than 50 per cent chance of a rate hike even by the end of 2017.

The worst of the turmoil seen on Friday, when global stock markets suffered their biggest decline in nearly five years, had eased, but sentiment remained weak and trading was volatile.

"Things are so uncertain that investors still do not have a clear idea how much risk assets they need to sell," said Hiroko Iwaki, senior foreign bond strategist at Mizuho Securities. "But it is safe to assume investors are not yet with done all the selling they need to. I wouldn't be surprised to see another 10 per cent fall in share prices," she added.

Among many questions the British exit, or Brexit, has triggered are just how much UK and European economies will slow, how they will negotiate their new relationship and how European leaders will try to boost the crumbling European Union.

"We believe that markets will remain cautious, as uncertainty over exit negotiations causes risk averse sentiment to linger," George Davis, chief technical analyst at RBC Dominion Securities in Toronto said in a note.

The euro also came under further pressure, falling almost 1 per cent against the US dollar, as investors fret Brexit could stoke the anti-establishment mood in Europe and even talk of disintegration of the union.

(There will be) sell-off in the euro as talk of other exit referenda builds," said Jerome Booth, chairman of New Sparta Asset Management in London. "This sell-off will be more profound and long-lasting and will be not just against the dollar and yen but also against the pound. It will also raise fears of significant loss of values for holders of Euro-zone government bonds."

The euro fell to US$1.1008, edging closer to Friday's 3-1/2-month low of US$1.0912.

Still, in a sign Briton's shock decision to leave the European Union may be encouraging Europeans to seek the safety of the status quo, support for Spain's conservative People's Party (PP) surged in Sunday's general election.

Oil prices fell more than 1 per cent in early trade, with international benchmark Brent futures down 1.3 per cent to US$47.80 per barrel.

Demand for safe haven assets such as government debt and precious metals remained strong.

The 10-year US debt yield dropped 9 basis points to 1.490 per cent in early Asian trade. On Friday, it fell as low as 1.406 per cent, near its record low of 1.381 per cent marked in July 2012.

Gold rose 1 per cent to US$1,334.50 per ounce.

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