Investors around the world are pricing in a Donald Trump victory over Hillary Clinton, as wins in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania took the political outsider closer to a historic upset that would give Republicans control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
Mr Trump’s victories in critical swing states pointed to the likelihood that many white, working class “Trump Democrats” in the midwest had crossed party lines to vote for a businessman who vowed to bring jobs back to the US and “make America great again”.
The tight race led to sharp swings in financial markets. The Mexican peso — seen as the prime gauge of Mr Trump’s fortunes — tumbled over 13 per cent, its biggest drop since the country’s 1994-1995 devaluation crisis to a record low of 20.7 to the dollar.
The dollar fell 3 per cent against the yen and 2.1 per cent against the euro. S&P 500 futures were down 5 per cent and gold was up 4.1 per cent. Investors marked the odds of a December rate rise down from 84 per cent to below 50 per cent.
Vin Weber, a former congressman who is close to House speaker Paul Ryan and was a vocal critic of Mr Trump, said: “Americas role in the world is suddenly an open question. But I wouldn’t assume the worst. I’d assume a question mark.”
Early results in the most acrimonious campaign in modern US history saw the candidates stacking up electoral college votes in reliably partisan states. The Associated Press called Texas, Tennessee and Indiana and other states for Mr Trump, and gave Mrs Clinton a string of states including Illinois, New Jersey, New York and California.
Ohio, where Mr Trump had been polling well, was the first swing state called on Tuesday evening, and was followed by wins in Virginia, Colorado and Nevada for Mrs Clinton. Shortly before midnight eastern time, Mr Trump saw off third-party candidate Evan McMullin in Utah.
Voters and investors endured a nail-biting night as they waited to learn who would emerge as the country’s 45th commander-in-chief. Traders had bet on a Clinton victory and had sold stocks at previous indications that Mr Trump could win, in a sign they believe the Republican’s policies could hit the global economy.
By the early hours of Wednesday morning in New York, the Associated Press had called for Republicans to retain control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“We appear headed to the closest national election since 2000,” said Brendan Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Philadelphia. “There is no question Trump has taken advantage of the discontent many voters feel. Frankly, our party must do a better job among white working class voters.”
Mr Trump’s strong early returns appeared to open up more potential paths for the Republican to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House, although millions of votes had yet to be counted.
In Wisconsin, as in Michigan, Mr Trump appeared to be mounting an unexpectedly potent challenge in two rust belt states that have been considered part of a defensive “blue wall” for Mrs Clinton.
Mr Trump hoped that his “Make America Great Again” campaign would bring out enough white, working-class men to overcome the boost that his Democratic rival is expected to get from Hispanics, African-Americans, college educated whites and women.
Mrs Clinton was watching the results at the Peninsula hotel in New York just under two blocks from Trump Tower where Mr Trump was doing the same.
Earlier, Mrs Clinton cast her vote near her home in Chappaqua, New York. Mr Trump, who voted in New York City, began the day by telling Fox News that his campaign would end up having been a waste of time if he was not elected president.
“I will consider it a tremendous waste of time, energy and money. I will have spent over $100m on my own campaign,” he told the cable network he has given about $66m to his campaign, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Campaign.
The final polls before voting began on Tuesday gave Mrs Clinton an average lead of 3.3 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics. The race was closer in the swing states that will decide the race, but the results may point to another tough night for pollsters.
Matt Borges, head of the Ohio Republican party. told the Financial Times that Republicans would do well in the state. But asked if the same applied to Mr Trump, he added: “It will be close”.