HONG KONG:Asian markets mostly rose again on Tuesday on hopes Britain will choose to stay in the European Union, but traders are moving cautiously with the outcome on a knife-edge two days before the vote.
With a series of polls putting the “Leave” and “Remain” camps neck and neck ahead of Thursday’s poll, two of the world’s investment titans, Li Ka-shing and George Soros, warned an exit vote would spell economic doom for Britain.
While stock traders built on the past two sessions’ gains, the pound edged up after enjoying its best single-day gain in eight years.
“The markets have a myopic focus on one thing: the UK referendum vote,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Ltd. in Melbourne, told Bloomberg News.
“All the euphoria of yesterday has seemingly abated and we hit the refresh button. We almost need to take this week one day at a time, such is the nervousness around trading.”
Dealers are also awaiting testimony on the US economy by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen from Tuesday.
By close of play, Tokyo jumped 1.3 percent as a morning yen surge faded, while Sydney gained 0.3 percent and Seoul added 0.1 percent. Hong Kong added 0.8 percent.
There were also healthy gains in Manila, Taipei and Jakarta.
However, Shanghai gave up early advances to close 0.4 percent lower.
In early European trade London slipped 0.7 percent, Frankfurt fell 0.2 percent and Paris eased 0.1 percent.
The pound rose to a three-week high of $1.4715 from $1.4675. The unit jumped 2.4 percent Monday, its best performance since the dark days of the global financial crisis in 2008.
Li and Soros were the latest in a succession of business and political leaders to throw their weight behind the campaign for Britain to stay in the economic bloc.
Writing in the Guardian, Soros—who made a billion pounds out of Britain’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 that became know as Black Wednesday—warned of a Black Friday if the country leaves.
“Sterling is almost certain to fall steeply and quickly if Leave wins the referendum,” Soros wrote.
“I would expect this devaluation to be bigger and also more disruptive than the 15 percent devaluation that occurred in September 1992.”
He warned Britain would be in a worse position this time as the Bank of England already has interest rates at 0.5 percent, while they were at 10 percent in 1992.
Li—one of Asia’s richest men who has huge investments in Britain from power to telecoms—said an exit would hurt the entire continent.
“If Brexit happens, it will be detrimental to the UK and it will have a negative impact to the whole of Europe,” he said in his first interview with international media since 2012.
“Of course I hope that the UK doesn’t leave the EU.”