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It’s referendum day in Britain. Polls are open and an estimated 46 million people are expected to decide whether the UK will remain in or leave the European Union. The referendum was promised by British prime minister David Cameron, and the BBC’s poll tracker puts “Remain” at 45% (+3) and “Leave” at 44% (0) — effectively neck-and-neck. The polls close at 10 p.m. BST (5 p.m. ET), and the first solid indications of the final results should start streaming in around 4 a.m. BST (11 p.m. ET).
The pound is rallying. It is up 1.35% to 1.4905 against the dollar, a level last reached in December 2015. A Brexit vote — to leave the EU — would usher in a period of uncertainty about the future of the UK and surrounding economies. Goldman Sachs analysts said the pound could fall as much as 15% if the UK leaves. Billionaire investor George Soros, who made a fortune betting against the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992, said it could drop more than 20% to below $1.15.
Most global markets are rallying. The FTSE 100 is up 1.53% in London, and is on its best five-day winning streak since 2003. Dow futures are up 174 points (1%), and S&P 500 futures are up 21 points (1.05%). The Euro Stoxx 50 is up 1.63%, while Germany’s DAX is up 2.27%.
Traders are gearing up for the worst. Implied one-week volatility for the pound-dollar pair rose 48.8% on Thursday, close to an all-time high, according to Bloomberg. One firm anticipates volatility that would be worse than when the Swiss National Bank unpegged its currency from the euro last January. Meanwhile, JPMorgan booked hotel rooms near its Canary Wharf offices, while Barclays is providing sleeping bags for employees, according to Bloomberg.
House Democrats are staging a sit-in to force a vote on gun-control legislation. The protest began early Wednesday, led by civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis. C-SPAN used a Periscope feed to broadcast the sit-in after its cameras and microphones were turned off. At night, Speaker Paul Ryan gaveled the House back into recess amid the loud chants, and a live feed from the chamber was shut down. Several Republicans could be heard shouting back at Democrats who continued to chant, “No fly, no buy,” and “No bill, no break.”
Bernie Sanders acknowledged for the first time that he may not be the Democratic nominee. “It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee, so I won’t be determining the scope of the convention,” he told C-SPAN. The Vermont senator lags Hillary Clinton in the delegate count needed to clinch the nomination.
Twilio priced its IPO above its previously targeted range. The cloud-communications company priced at $15 a share and is now valued at $1.23 billion, more than its last private valuation of around $1 billion. That’s an important milestone for the dozens of privately held “unicorn” startups nervously wondering whether their valuations of $1 billion or more will translate to the public markets. Twilio will begin trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker “TWLO.”
Palantir is buying $225 million of stock back from employees for their silence. The secretive $20 billion data-mining startup cofounded by Peter Thiel is also extending the offer to some ex-employees, according to BuzzFeed. The conditions are that they renew their nondisclosure agreements, do not talk to the press, and agree to not poach Palantir employees for 12 months. If they agree to these terms, they’re eligible to sell 12.5% of their equity, or $500,000 worth, of shares back to the company, whichever is lower.
Bank of America is nearing a settlement with the SEC. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bank has been in discussions with regulators about paying $400 million to $450 million to settle allegations that it flouted rules to protect client accounts. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether the bank used complex trades and loans to access billions in cash for its own uses that would otherwise have been stashed away to meet regulatory requirements.
In US economic data, initial jobless claims cross at 8:30 a.m. ET. Then, Markit’s preliminary manufacturing PMI for June is released at 9:45 a.m., followed by May new home sales at 10 a.m.
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