Mood tense at traders, banks here as British pound drops
Phones were ringing off the hook. Glued to their chairs, dealers scanned computer screens in front of them.
In between calls, they kept tabs on the results of the Brexit referendum, which would determine which way the sterling would swing.
The tension was palpable at Phillip Futures, which deals in foreign exchange and commodities, yesterday morning, as dealers handled a higher-than-usual volume of calls.
While The New Paper was there, the forex desk broke into a flurry of activity when it became clear that the UK was heading for a Brexit at around 11.30am.
When the British pound plunged yet again, one of the dealers muttered: "Siao liao, siao liao." (Hokkien for "It's madness.")
All at once, the dealers spoke in raised voices as they were swamped by phone calls.
The mood was so tense that even taking lunch orders became an arduous task. A female employee was snubbed as she went around asking the dealers about lunch.
A choice eventually had to be made between roast pork rice and char siew rice. One dealer absent-mindedly asked for a char siew pau.
The mood was similar at banks and other brokerage firms.
At DBS Bank, its full team of traders skipped lunch despite starting work at 6am to handle the high volume of activity, said its head of treasury and markets, Mr Andrew Ng.
IG Market strategist Bernard Aw said: "We definitely saw a lot more activity in comparison to normal days."
The vote to leave the European Union saw the sterling sink to its lowest in 30 years against the US dollar.
Across the globe, Asian stock markets, including the Nikkei Stock Average in Japan, the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong and the Straits Times Index here, took a beating.
While the uncertainty following Brexit is expected to affect the global economy, Mr Aw expects the impact on our economy to be more muted.
"Most of our companies in Singapore have their businesses concentrated in Asia-Pacific, maybe the US, and some parts of Europe. But the (business concentration in the UK) is not large enough to cause significant damage," he said.
Mr Adrian Ang, co-founder of Star Deals Gallery, which specialises in importing European and Japanese luxury cars, said his stock includes a few cars imported from the UK.
"Those cars that are already here will take a hit because they now cost less compared to the price they were bought at. But you gain some, lose some. More people may start looking at buying European cars now that they are cheaper. Business may be better," he said.
Despite the uncertainty around the UK's negotiation for new trade agreements, he is staying positive.
"What happens because of Brexit is beyond our control... You have to adapt to the situation and not expect the situation to adapt to you."