The pound climbed against the dollar in Asian trade while stock markets were mostly up but traders stepped nervously as Britain began voting in a knife-edge in-out EU referendum yesterday.
Attention around the globe is now fixated on the ballot, which opinion polls are saying is too close to call but bookmakers suggest will definitely see a victory for the “remain” camp.
Markets suffered a sharp sell-off last week after surveys indicated the country would leave, which many analysts warn could lead to another global rout just months after a China-fuelled sell-off that wiped trillions off valuations.
However, they have rallied over the past four days as the pro-EU campaign has recovered momentum.
“Public opinion polls keep changing,” Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management, told Bloomberg News.
Hours before the 0600 GMT start of voting, the pound hit a 2016 record of $1.4844 before easing slightly to $1.4750, but still up from $1.4737 in New York. Sterling has risen almost 6% since hitting a two-month low last Thursday.
However, Bill Fitzpatrick, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management, warned: “Anybody who is predicting this with a high degree of certainty is delusional.
“There’s plenty of room for risk assets to move higher, but I would wait.”
And Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, warned in a note that investors could be setting themselves up for a big fall.
On equity markets, Tokyo ended up 1.1% and Sydney was 0.2% higher while Hong Kong rose 0.4%.
Shanghai closed 0.5% down and Seoul shed 0.3%.
The dollar eased to 104.44 yen from 104.51 yen in US trade.
A pedestrian walks past an electronic stock indicator on the window of a security company in Tokyo. Japanese shares ended 1.1% higher in light trading yesterday.