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.
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.
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.
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