A sharp fall in Tokyo led losses in Asian stock markets Friday as traders fret over next week's US election, with the dollar weakening further and safe-haven gold maintaining its lustre.
The pound held on to Thursday's gains to sit at one-month highs after judges told Britain's government it must approve June's referendum to leave the European Union.
Trading floors around the world have been plunged into turmoil this week as market favourite Hillary Clinton's lead over maverick rival Donald Trump has been slashed days before the November 8 poll.
The former secretary of state is considered by most investors to be a safer, more stable bet than Trump, who is seen as a loose cannon, with policies many fear could wreck the world's top economy.
“Markets are currently attempting to strike the right balance between the greater probability of a Clinton win and the possibility of a significant selloff on a Trump victory,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst in Sydney at CMC Markets, said.
On Wall Street the S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell for the eighth straight day, while the Dow ended in the red for the sixth straight session. And the Vix volatility index, which measures market fear, soared 14 percent to its highest levels since Britain's shock vote in June to exit the European Union.
Those losses spread to Asia again, with Tokyo -- which was closed for a holiday Thursday -- ending 1.3 percent lower.
- Sterling holds gains -
Adding to selling on the Nikkei was a surge in the yen against the dollar as traders rush to safe investments while speculation swirls the Federal Reserve will hold off an expected interest rate hike in December if Trump wins owing to fears about the economy.
The greenback bought 103.20 yen in Asia, up from 102.93 yen in New York but well down from the 105.30 yen mark touched earlier this week.
“The dollar is showing clear signs that investors are worried about a Trump win,” Sean Callow, a senior strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
Shanghai fell 0.1 percent and Sydney was down 0.9 percent, Seoul lost 0.1 percent and Singapore slipped 0.5 percent. There were also losses in Wellington and Jakarta. Hong Kong dipped 0.2 percent in the afternoon.
In early European trade London fell 0.6 percent, Paris lost 0.3 percent and Frankfurt shed 0.5 percent.
The pound ticked higher against the dollar and euro after Thursday's rally that came after the High Court's decision in London, which throws Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for a quick withdrawal into doubt.
Sterling was edging towards the $1.25 level in Asia, well up from the sub $1.22 seen on Monday.
The search for safety has also sent traders into gold, which is considered a hedge against turmoil. The yellow metal was sitting around $1,300 in Asia -- a one-month high.
The next big event before the election is the release later Friday of US jobs data, which could cement expectations for a rate hike next month.
- Key figures around 0800 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.3 percent at 16,905.36 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 22,642.62 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,125.32 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent 6,749.29
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2470 from $1.2463 Wednesday
Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.00 pence from 89.12 pence
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1100 from $1.1107
Dollar/yen: UP at 103.20 yen from 102.93 yen
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN seven cents at $44.59 per barrel
Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN nine cents at $46.26
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 17,930.67 (close)