Britain votes today to decide whether or not to say 'adieu' to the European Union. Conflicting polls suggest the result, which is likely to be delivered early Friday morning British time, is too close to call. What doesn't appear to be in doubt is that the result will have far reaching consequences for markets and businesses, particularly in Europe and the U.K.
Here is a market-by-market breakdown of what analysts expect, or are simply worried about, depending on the outcome.
The pound: Analysts agree that a vote to leave will devalue the pound, though they differ on the size of the likely fall. HSBC's currency strategists expect the pound to tumbled 15% to 20%, Goldman Sachs is tipping a fall of about 10%, billionaire George Soros, who made much of his fortune betting against the pound in 1992, expects to see a 15% fall "and possibly more than 20%."
"On a leave decision, we expect the pound to fall to $1.30-$1.35 quickly, and we look for an eventual fall to $1.20-$1.25," noted Société Générale's Kit Juckes.
The pound rose in early trading Thursday to a year-to-date high of $1.4862, suggesting confidence that the remain vote will prevail.
The euro and other currencies: In the event of a "leave" vote the switch out of the pound into the relatively safer euro would "buoy the single currency in the very short term, by which we mean 24-48 hours," note Goldman Sachs analysts. "But beyond the very short term, a 'Brexit' vote would be a material negative confidence shock to a region that is struggling to reflate" and the currency could slide.
Citigroup sees things the other way round. A "remain" vote, it claimed, would bolster the euro which "could break its $1.15 resistance level and trade towards $1.20 and maybe higher."
Elsewhere, a spike in risk from a "leave" vote is likely to prove supportive of the dollar, while the yen and the Swiss franc are also likely to rise, albeit against the wishes of their respective central banks, according to Capital Economics analysts.
Gold: Société Générale is tipping gold to rise in the event of a vote to exit the EU. "'Brexit' would spark significant physical purchases of gold not just in the U.K. but also from the much larger European market," the bank noted.
Others, including Citi, are not so confident, noting that the recent run up in gold prices may have already taken the wind out of a potential rally while the end of the campaign, no matter what the result, will re-inject certainty that could undermine gold.
Equities: Analysts are almost unanimous that a "leave" vote will send London (and, to a greater or lesser extent, all) stock markets lower; while stay would provide a, possibly short lived, relief rally.
UBS believes the FTSE 100 could fall as much as 21% to 4,900, dipping below 5,000 for the first time since 2011 if Britain votes to leave, though its optimistic target is 5,500. The FTSE 100 was at 6,359.64 on Thursday, having posted an impressive 1.57% gain on the day.
Received wisdom is that a leave vote will most hurt UK banks and European banks with considerable exposure to the UK retail-banking sector such as Spain's Santander and BBVA.
"U.K. bank share prices already discount some of [the exit] risk but is impossible to know how risk appetite will change and what might happen to the cost of equity," Exane BNP analysts noted. "In the event of a vote to remain in the EU, we believe U.K. bank share prices would initially, at least, revert to levels seen towards the end of May...when the odds on remaining started to fall appreciably."
Outside of the banks, Exane BNP notes a number of sectors that are likely to suffer in the event of a "leave" vote, and correspondingly prosper if remain carries the day.
Carmakers BMW (BAMXY) , Peugeot (PEUGF) and Daimler each make about 12% of their sales in the U.K. and would be hurt by both an economic downturn and a fall in the value of the pound. Building materials firms are also likely to be hit by a "leave" vote, with Exane noting Cemex (CX) - Get Report and Kingspan as two of the most exposed companies.
The French bank tipped the drinks sector as a (relative) bright spot in the event of a leave vote, noting that "Beverages is a low beta sector and the risk-off trade is likely to prevail as the market flies to safety."
Debt markets: A vote to exit would likely trigger a further easing of Bank of England monetary policy. "By August we would expect a 25 basis point cut in bank rate," noted Goldman Sachs, which added that a move into negative rates remained unlikely.
The European Central Bank could also intervene to lower interest rates in the event of a vote to leave, probably by pumping euros into the market by expanding its bond buying activities which are already running at EUR80 billion ($91.16 billion) a month.
And a last word: "There is an eerie feeling in the city (London), with a nervous energy evident as we await the fate of the nation," IG analyst Joshua Mahoney wrote Thursday. "Whatever the result, volatility is likely to be the name of the game."