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U.K. 'Brexit' vote makes tidal waves in global markets; Dow suffers 8th-worst one-day loss ever

"This looks to be a sad day for Europe and for Britain," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware
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U.K. 'Brexit' vote makes tidal waves in global markets; Dow suffers 8th-worst one-day loss ever
A board on the floor of the NYSE shows the U.S. Dollar Index up and the British Pound down on Friday, after Britain surprised markets by voting to leave the European Union. At one point Friday, the value of the British pound had reached its lowest level since 1985. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, June 24 (UPI) -- The United Kingdom's referendum vote to leave the European Union had a far-reaching impact on global financial markets Friday -- as the British pound sank to its lowest value in three decades and the Dow suffered one of its worst one-day losses in history.

Stocks in the United States, Europe and Asia fell sharply, along with oil prices, after news arrived that 52 percent of U.K. voters chose to leave the EU.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 611 points by the end of trading Friday -- its eighth-largest single-day loss in history -- to finish at 17,399.86. The S&P 500 fell 76 points to close at 2,037 and the tech-weighted Nasdaq dropped 202 points to finish at 4,708, its worst day since 2011.

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Immediately after news of the referendum broke, the British pound began losing value. At one point Friday, it had fallen to its lowest value level since 1985.

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The Euro, the currency used by most EU countries, as expected, also took a hit.

By day's end Friday, in fact, the "Brexit" repercussions had actually wiped out all the gains Wall Street has scored so far this year.

"We haven't had what I would say is a crash, but we have given back gains we had taken months to make," analyst Chris Semenuk told the Wall Street Journal Friday.

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In Europe and Asia, the losses were even greater. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 7 percent, its steepest drop since 2008. Germany's DAX index started the day off by shedding 6.3 percent and Japan's Nikkei index fell 8 percent. British bank Barclays PLC lost 18 percent and Spanish lender Banco Santander SA down 20 percent.

Banking firm Goldman Sachs speculated Friday that the index's losses related to a British exit could run as high as 19 percent.

Friday's was considered a historic beating, particularly because in the run-up to Thursday's vote many analysts had offered speculation and investors based many fiscal moves on an expectation that the United Kingdom would not leave the EU.

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Among the few commodities to gain value amid the fiscal chaos Friday were gold and U.S. government bonds -- less volatile market items that many investors bought as they ran for cover to guard against further losses.

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New London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had campaigned heavily to stay in the European Union, gives a final press conference before Thursday's referendum vote in King's Cross, London. Friday, Khan and other British officials, including Prime Minister David Cameron, expressed deep disappointment for voters' decision to leave the EU. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI

The British vote came as a shock, despite assurances from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who tried to assure investors and savers by saying the bank was "well prepared" for the vote.

The bank had reserved $344 billion to help stabilize the British economy.

The United Kingdom's actual separation from the 28-nation economic and political bloc will take up to two years, following a protocol outlined in the EU constitution.

A surprised British Prime Minister David Cameron, who lobbied heavily to stay in the EU, announced Friday he will resign in October. Before the vote, Cameron had warned that a departure from the EU would inflict great "self harm" to the British economy.

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"This is simply unprecedented, the pound has fallen off a cliff," Dennis de Jong of the British stock trading company UFX.com told the BBC. "Britain's EU referendum has been a cloud hanging over the global economy for the past few months and that cloud has got very dark this morning."

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Proponents of leaving the EU used nationalist sentiment to gather votes; EU membership means following more orders from the Brussels assembly and fewer from London, such as those regarding placement of refugees. The policies include a free exchange of labor between EU countries, meaning workers from less-prosperous EU nations are seeking work in Britain.

The issue of sovereignty, of whether the EU or Britain rules Britain, helped prompt 52 percent of voters Thursday to reject EU membership.

The vote will also reorder EU priorities and procedures; it will lose a major military and diplomatic power.

"This looks to be a sad day for Europe and for Britain," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

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