TOKYO - The dollar sank more than three percent versus the yen and turned tail against other major peers on Wednesday in extremely volatile trade in global markets, as a fiercely contested U.S. presidential election showed the outcome was too close to call.
Republican Donald Trump won the key battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday, was the projected winner in Florida and led Democrat Hillary Clinton in a series of other states like North Carolina, in a surprisingly close race for the White House.
The dollar slumped 3.1 percent at 101.890 yen in a volatile day that saw it rise to 105.480 earlier, when last-minute projections from the previous day put Clinton in favour.
The dollar fell 1.8 percent against the Swiss franc, another safe-haven, to 0.9606 franc.
"The catalyst behind the dollar's slide was reports that put Trump ahead of Clinton in the battleground state of Florida," said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.
"Risk aversion is in the air with equities tumbling."
The scene was reminiscent of the turmoil that engulfed global financial markets after the June Brexit vote, when British voters opted to leave the European Union in a decision that wrongfooted investors and bookmakers.
"No one in the market expected the results that we're seeing so far," said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo.
"Even if in the case there is a Clinton comeback and she wins, the market already has reacted to the point where the dollar would have trouble climbing back. It's mostly algo dealing in the market now, with dealers staying out. It's system trading, and it's hard for anyone to catch up."
The Mexican peso handed back earlier gains and fell to a record low versus the dollar, with U.S. currency moving up more than 11 percent to 20.44 pesos.
The peso had suffered deep losses recently when the likelihood of a Trump victory appeared high. Trump has pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, a move that could damage the economies of the export-heavy nations.
The Canadian dollar fell to an eight-month low against the greenback.
Investor anxiety has deepened in recent weeks on the prospect of a Trump victory as the controversial businessman, an anti-establishment political novice, is seen as a risk to global growth as he has pledged to renegotiate trade deals, impose high import tariffs and stirred fears of a currency war with China.
The Republican candidate has also stoked uncertainty over his stance in foreign policy and immigration, while Clinton is seen by markets as a safe pair of hands and likely to ensure political and financial stability.
Graphic of live election results: http://tmsnrt.rs/2fxyZV0
Graphic of live market reaction: http://tmsnrt.rs/2fXfo0L
Live Coverage: http://live.reuters.com/event/election_2016
Both candidates scored victories in states where they were expected to win. Trump captured conservative states in the South and Midwest, while Clinton swept several states on the East Coast and Illinois in the Midwest.
But Trump's slight edge in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina gave him an advantage in the state-by-state fight for 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.
The euro rallied 1.8 percent to $1.1218.
The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in risk appetite, fell 1.8 percent to $0.7624. The Aussie sank more than 5 percent to 77.50 yen, suffering its deepest intraday loss since the June Brexit referendum.
Sterling was up 0.9 percent at $1.2390.