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Asia: Stocks advance as UK Brexit vote results trickle in

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[SYDNEY] Asian stocks opened with volatile trading as early results from the UK referendum on European Union membership filtered through.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.7 per cent to 130.93 as of 9:02 am in Tokyo. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.3 per cent, while South Korea's Kospi index climbed 0.7 per cent. Japan's Topix climbed 0.5 per cent.

Traders are on edge Friday morning before a final decision is announced for the UK vote.

S&P 500 Index futures reversed an advance of as much as 0.7 per cent after results from Britain's European Union referendum in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Sunderland showed greater support for leaving the bloc than academics had forecast.

"Markets are very nervy at the moment," said Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, a brokerage in London. "The polls - and the markets - could be wrong."

The debate over Britain's future dominated trading in June, with anxiety over the economic impacts of a Brexit, and the boost it could give to anti-establishment sentiment globally, stoking market volatility around the world.

Concern that the UK could secede has whipsawed stock markets this month, wiping more than US$1 trillion from global equity values last week alone. Bookmakers have been predicting a much lower chance of a "Leave" vote since the murder of pro-Europe UK lawmaker Jo Cox last week.

Central bankers including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen have indicated a victory for Brexit would destabilise global markets.

Japan's Topix index is down 16 per cent already in 2016, the second-largest decline among 24 developed equity markets tracked by Bloomberg.

Brexit fear has pummeled Japanese stocks more than other markets amid concern a vote to leave the EU could destabilise the global economy and push investors into haven assets such as the yen. 

The yen soared to an almost two-year high as early results were released. Morgan Stanley had warned that losses on the Topix will be bigger than elsewhere in Asia should Britain opt to leave the EU.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 0.3 per cent.

BLOOMBERG