European shares rose higher on Friday, with the final result showing Scotland has rejected independence in a referendum held on Thursday.
By 8.30 a.m. London time all 32 counts had been declared, confirming that unionists had been victorious with a majority 55 percent of the vote against independence. The total turnout for the referendum was given as 84.59 percent.
The FTSE 100 traded 0.6 percent higher, with the broader FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 percent. U.K. banks Lloyds and RBS were sharply higher, up by 1 percent and 3 percent respectively, with both confirming that they would not be re-domiciling their headquarters to England after Friday's result.
The U.K.'s financial sector as whole was also buoyed by the outcome after previous fears regarding currency, pensions and debt burdens before the vote. Firms like Hargreaves Lansdown, Aderbeen Asset Management, St James Place and Schroders were major gainers on the U.K.'s blue-chip index. Engineering group Babcock also rose by 1.7 percent and cyclical stocks like supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury were also showing healthy gains.
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In his losing speech, Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond demanded the U.K. government meet its promise of more powers for the country. "Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course," Salmond said.
Meanwhile, Former finance minister Alistair Darling, who was at the forefront of the Unionist campaign, thanked his supporters and said that it was a "momentous result" for both Scotland and for the United Kingdom.
David Cameron, the U.K. prime minister, said he was "delighted" at the result adding that it was time for the U.K. to come together and move forward. He announced a new "balanced settlement" for Scotland which would involve draft legislation - to be ready by January - that could give the country more powers on tax, spending and welfare. He also said that further devolution should be offered to Northern Ireland and Wales, and outlined that England could also expect to have more say on the laws that solely affect its citizens.
Futures on Wall Street pointed to a higher open with investors eagerly anticipating the IPO (initial public offering) of Alibaba. In Asia, benchmarks also soared but remained focused on domestic issues with Japan announcing new rules on pensions and the Chinese central bank delivering more stimulus to its economy.
Tony Cross, a market analyst at financial services firm Trustnet Direct, said that the FTSE 100 is being "cheered significantly" at the result but wasn't quite matching up to exuberance suggested by some of the spread betters overnight.
"How sustainable the relief rally will be remains to be seen. The legislative changes that we're going to see regardless have the ability to still prove somewhat unsettling so talk of the London index testing those all time highs as a result today could still prove rather short-lived," he said in a morning research note.
Meanwhile, sterling spiked on the news and reports showed that currency traders in London had stayed up during the night to place bets on the foreign exchange markets as the votes came in.
The pound had dipped to below 1.62 against the dollar just a few weeks ago with polls showing that the pro-independence campaign had taken a narrow lead. The currency appreciated in recent days in anticipation of the Union staying together. By 6:00 a.m. London time sterling climbed to 1.6467 against the dollar after trading at around 1.63 on Thursday. By 10:00 a.m. London time it had turned negative for the session, falling to 1.6369. Against the euro it reached a two-year high on Friday morning.
"Clients had spent yesterday steadily building up long positions in sterling and the FTSE as they bet that cooler heads would prevail and the Union would remain in tact," Marius Paun and Jonathan Sudaria, two market analysts from Capital Spreads said in a morning note.
"The old market adage of 'buy the rumor sell the fact' may still hold because if you're leaving it to this morning to buy on post referendum euphoria you may be getting in at the top."
Most currency strategists were expecting to see the U.K. pound appreciate over the coming days but some were dubious that any strength would continue in the longer term. Kathleen Brooks, a research director at London-based broker FOREX.com said that investors would have to wait to see what the devolution powers for Scotland really meant.
"We believe that we may have seen the peak for (sterling/dollar) on July 15 at 1.7192, and we may see cable drift lower from here," she said. She urged caution trading the pound and said it was likely to struggle against the dollar even though the Bank of England could be one of the first of the major central banks to hike interest rates.
In the bond markets, yields on longer dated U.K. sovereign debt remained relatively untouched on Friday morning after ticking higher for much of Thursday's session.
The argument over whether an independent Scotland could keep the pound had been raging for months, and U.K. banks and Scottish-based firms have also seen a dip in stock prices.
There was also uncertainty about the debt burden that an independent Scotland would share with the rest of the U.K., and the country had been given a potential sovereign risk rating in the lower BBB region, one notch above junk, by risk rating group IHS.