Republican Donald Trump scored a series of shocking wins in battleground U.S. states including Florida and Ohio on Tuesday, opening a path to the White House for the political outsider and rattling world markets that had counted on a win by Democrat Hillary Clinton.
With investors worried a Trump victory could cause economic and global uncertainty, the U.S. dollar sank and stock markets plummeted in wild Asian trading. Opinion polls before Election Day had given Clinton a slim lead.
Mexico's peso plunged to its lowest-ever levels as Trump's chances of winning the presidency increased. Concerns of a Trump victory have weighed heavily on the peso for months because of his threats to rip up a free trade agreement with Mexico and tax money sent home by migrants to pay to build a wall on the southern U.S. border.
Trump surged to wins in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina, and Fox News projected a win for him in Wisconsin. With voting completed in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, he also narrowly led in Michigan and New Hampshire, edging him closer to 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the state-by-state fight for the White House.
Shortly after Fox called Wisconsin for Trump, supporters at his election evening rally in New York began to chant "lock her up" - a common refrain on the campaign trail for the former U.S. secretary of state repeatedly dubbed "Crooked Hillary" by Trump.
A packed crowd in the lobby of Trump's new hotel in Washington D.C. chanted "lock her up, lock her up," and "USA, USA, USA" as state after state was called for Trump.
Clinton still had ways to reach 270 electoral votes, but she would have to sweep the remaining battleground states including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada, and pull off an upset win in Arizona.
Trump captured conservative states in the South and Midwest, while Clinton swept several states on the East Coast and Illinois in the Midwest.
After running close throughout the night in Virginia, Clinton pulled out the swing state that is home to her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine.
At 8:55 p.m. EST (0155 GMT on Wednesday), Clinton acknowledged a battle that was unexpectedly tight given her edge in opinion polls going into Election Day.
She tweeted: "This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything."
As of 11:40 p.m. EST (0440 GMT on Wednesday), Trump had 244 electoral votes to Clinton's 209, with U.S. television networks projecting the winner in 41 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
A wealthy real-estate developer and former reality TV host, Trump rode a wave of anger toward Washington insiders to challenge Clinton, whose gold-plated establishment resume includes stints as a first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
Both candidates had historically low popularity ratings, although Trump's were worse than Clinton's, in an election that many voters characterized as a choice between two unpleasant alternatives.
Before Tuesday's voting, Clinton led Trump, 44 percent to 39 percent in the last Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll. A Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation poll gave her a 90 percent chance of defeating Trump and becoming the first woman elected U.S. president.
Also at stake on Tuesday was control of the U.S. Congress. Republicans will maintain their six-year control over the House of Representatives, major TV networks projected, and were on track to defend their Senate majority, as well, against a handful of failed Democratic challengers.
In a presidential campaign that focused more on the character of the candidates than on policy, Clinton, 69, and Trump, 70, accused each other of being fundamentally unfit to lead the country.
Trump entered the race 17 months ago and survived a series of seemingly crippling blows, many of them self-inflicted, including the emergence in October of a 2005 video in which he boasted about making unwanted sexual advances on women. He apologized but within days, several women emerged to say he had groped them, allegations he denied.
He was judged the loser of all three presidential debates with Clinton and she led him by varying margins for months in opinion polls.
Trump won avid support among a core base of white non-college educated workers with his promise to be the "greatest jobs president that God ever created." He has vowed to impose a 35 percent tariff on goods exported to the United States by U.S. companies that went abroad.
His volatile nature and unorthodox proposals led to campaign feuds with a long list of people, including Muslims, the disabled, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, the family of a slain Muslim-American soldier, a Miss Universe winner and a federal judge of Mexican heritage.