Markets

Christopher Langner is a markets columnist for Bloomberg Gadfly. He previously covered corporate finance for Bloomberg News, and has written for Reuters/IFR, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and Mergermarket.

David Fickling is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

Traders were poised for a British vote to remain part of the EU this morning. And they were sure that if there was an unexpectedly strong swing to Brexit, there'd be insufficient liquidity. They were wrong on both counts.

For all the worries about finding somebody to buy when panic trading began, plenty of stocks are changing hands. Add this event to the list of reasons why currency and bond movements would be more orderly if they were traded on exchanges.

Volume in both the Nikkei 225 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 indexes, the first major gauges to start trading this morning, began by closely following their 20-day averages. As soon as results began to show the Leave camp stronger than forecast, they spiked.

Liquid Flood
Volume in the Nikkei 225 has been running at about 75 percent above average levels
Source: Bloomberg

The same was true of the two stocks that have become the poster children for the fear of Brexit: the Hong Kong-traded shares of HSBC and Standard Chartered.

China Crisis
Hong Kong-traded stocks of U.K. banks have seen volumes spike well above average levels as the probability of a Leave vote increased
Source: Bloomberg

Currency traders have been reporting very thin volumes. No matter how deep the foreign exchange markets are, trading continues to be done over the counter, by phone and on computer terminals.

Stock markets, on the other hand, appear to be working as a place where investment funds desperate for a hedge can trade freely on events. Amid the turmoil, that illustrates the advantage of public, centrally cleared markets: When the chips are down, it's better to be able to trade your position than to sit on your hands.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the authors of this story:
Christopher Langner in Singapore at clangner@bloomberg.net
David Fickling in Sydney at dfickling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Paul Sillitoe at psillitoe@bloomberg.net