[SYDNEY] The Japanese yen soared to an almost two- year high as early results from the UK's referendum on European Union membership were released.
The Australian and New Zealand dollars fell along with the British pound after vote counts from some areas in the UK produced results more favorable to the 'Leave' campaign than had been expected.
Sunderland, an area in England's northern industrial heartland, voted against staying in the EU by 61 per cent to 39 per cent, compared with a six point advantage that had been predicted in a study ahead of the referendum.
The yen rose as much as 2.9 per cent to 103.07 per dollar, the strongest since August 2014, and was at 105.02 as of 8:34 am Friday in Tokyo.
The pound dropped 2.2 per cent to US$1.4560, the Aussie slid 1 per cent to 75.38 US cents and the New Zealand dollar was down 0.6 per cent to 72.04 US cents.
The pound and higher-yielding South Pacific currencies had earlier climbed as opinion polls fueled speculation that British voters had opted to remain in the EU.
Japan's currency climbed 3.7 per cent against the pound, outperforming all major peers, amid concern a so-called Brexit would drag down already-tepid global growth.
Some analysts have speculated the Bank of Japan will be under increased pressure to add to stimulus if Britain leaves the EU, while Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen cited the Brexit vote as one of the reasons for stalling US interest-rate increases this year.
The yen has surged 15 per cent this year against the greenback, making it the best performing currency, amid concern that China and the US - the world's largest two economies - will struggle to overcome headwinds to growth. It has resisted efforts by Japanese officials to talk it lower.