Sydney: The U.S. dollar sank and stocks plummeted in market mayhem on Wednesday as investors faced the real possibility of a shock win by Republican Donald Trump that could upend the global political order.
European shares looked set to follow with losses of more than 4 percent as every new TV network projection in the U.S. election showed the race to be far closer than anyone had thought, sending investors stampeding into safe-haven assets.
Sovereign bonds, the Japanese yen and gold surged while the Mexican peso went into near free-fall in chaotic trading.
"Markets are reacting as though the four horsemen of the apocalypse just rode out of Trump Tower," said Sean Callow, a forex strategist at Westpac in Sydney.
"Or at least 3 of them - it might be 4 when the prospect of a clean sweep of Congress sinks in."
As of 0525 GMT, Trump had 244 electoral votes to Clinton's 215, with networks projecting the winner in 42 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It takes 270 to win.
Several other key swing states were still too close to call.
U.S. stock futures dived 5 percent at one point, worse than the carnage caused by the British vote to leave the European Union in June that wiped trillions of dollars off world markets.
Investors fear a Trump victory could cause global economic and trade turmoil and years of policy unpredictability, discouraging the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates in December as long expected.
Fed fund futures were even starting to toy with the idea of a cut in rates next year <0#FF:> and it was possible the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and others might be forced to ease policy yet further.
South Korean authorities were thought to have intervened to steady their currency, and dealers wondered if central banks globally would step in to calm nerves.
Japan's top currency diplomat signaled Tokyo's readiness to intervene if necessary as the surging yen threatened to snuff out its fragile economic recovery.
“Lightning appears to have struck twice as Trump is set for an unexpected victory, following the shock Brexit vote earlier in the year," said Geoffrey Yu, head of the UK Investment Office at UBS Wealth Management.
"For markets, what happens to Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be crucial. The impact of her future will be felt globally,” he added. Trump and Republicans have criticized the Fed for keeping rates low for so long.
The scale of the scare was clear in the Mexican peso, which plunged more than 13 percent against the dollar in the biggest daily move in two decades. There was speculation Mexico's central bank would have to raise rates on Wednesday to try and stabilize the currency.
The peso has become a touchstone for sentiment on the election as Trump's trade policies are seen as damaging to its export-heavy economy. The risk of a global trade war likewise hammered currencies across Asia, with the Australian dollar leading the rout.
The story was very different against the safe-haven yen, with the U.S. dollar shedding 2.7 percent to 102.60 yen. The euro jumped 1.7 percent to $1.1218.
Asian stocks skidded, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan down 2.7 percent and the Nikkei off a savage 5.4 percent.
With voting completed in most U.S. states, the race was still too tight to call in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states that could be vital to deciding who wins the presidency.
Markets had favored Clinton as a status quo candidate who would be considered a safe pair of hands at home on the world stage. Analysts had no such certainty about Trump.
"With Brexit we had one bad day but this is different. This is what's scary about putting the most powerful position in the world in the hands of a man who many believe is temperamentally unstable," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.
"His tax cuts could open up a huge increase in the budget deficit and his trade sanctions could interrupt world trade. This could put us in a recession."
Sovereign bonds flew ahead, pushing yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes down 1.80 percent, from an early six-month high around 1.8960 percent.
In commodity markets, safe-haven gold climbed 3 percent to $1,313 an ounce as the dollar slid.
Oil turned tail on concerns over the global economic outlook. U.S. crude shed $1.09 to $43.88 a barrel, while Brent fell $1.08 to $44.96.