EU referendum: Financial markets are looking calm - for now

Jake Cordell
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On the final day of trading before the EU vote, markets were quiet
On the final day of trading before the EU vote, markets were quiet (Source: Getty)

This time tomorrow, polls will be open, voters will be dripping into town halls, churches and school gyms to conduct their civic duty by putting a tiny mark next to a few words on a bit of paper and dropping it into a crusty old wooden box.

That moment of calm - behind the curtain or the screen of the polling booth - could be a sharp contrast to what engulfs the nation come Friday morning. The turmoil - whatever the vote - will play out fastest and most furiously on the financial markets.

Should a vote to leave unleash frenzied trading, most estimates have sterling falling by at least ten per cent almost immediately. The stock markets are also pricing in turmoil that matches the fallout from the Lehman Brothers collapse. George Osborne has not ruled out calling a bank holiday if panic completely overwhelms the City in order to suspend trading.

Read more: Gold transactions soar before Brexit vote

Looking at the markets today, however, you would be forgiven for thinking the chances of any of this happening are pretty low.

After Monday's surge on the FTSE and spike in sterling, the markets have been tranquil. Either all the big investors have got their houses in order and are sitting tight until after the polls close, or they are confident a leave vote - or at least the big sell-offs many believe will occur in the event of one - will be avoided.

Sterling was up 0.5 per cent again today at $1.4727. Yesterday the currency closed in on one of its highest levels of 2016 before dropping back slightly in afternoon trading. The movements are nothing like the rises and falls of recent weeks.

Read more: Experts predict today's FTSE 100 close

The FTSE 100 was also looking up, climbing 0.7 per cent by lunchtime to stand at 6,271.58.

Despite the lack of wild swings, Lukman Otunuga at FXTM said: "A sense of anxiety continues to loom over the global markets."

Traders fear the calm could be disrupted at any point by the slightest sign of movement one way or another in the polls.

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