New 'Brexit' poll shows Brits leaning toward leaving, hits markets

Supporters react at a 'Vote Leave' rally in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Ian Forsyth | Getty Images
Supporters react at a 'Vote Leave' rally in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

A new poll showing a majority of British people in favor of leaving the European Union hit foreign exchange and stock markets on Friday.

The data in London newspaper The Independent showed that 55 percent believe Britain should leave the EU, versus 45 percent who favored staying. The publication said it marked the largest portion of respondents who favored exiting since research firm ORB began polling the issue for it last year.

Britain will hold a referendum on EU membership on June 23. Some British officials including Prime Minister David Cameron have argued that departing the European Union will disrupt the British economy.

The pound fell against the euro after the news, hitting session lows and last trading down 1 percent. It also hit session lows against the dollar and was last down about 1.5 percent. The pound fell 1.7 percent against the dollar for the week.

The United Kingdom, while a member of the European Union, is not a member of the euro zone currency bloc. Its 10-year bond yield, which moves inversely to its price, rose following the poll's release.

Major U.S. stock averages extended losses following the news, and the Dow Jones industrial average closed about 0.7 percent lower.

Many traders and market observers also see a so-called Brexit as a negative, prompting the reaction in markets, said Thierry Wizman, a global interest rates and currency strategist at Macquarie.

"Bottom line, it doesn't look good," he said.

Officials beyond the EU have warned about the possible economic disruption from a Brexit. U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers have cited the referendum as a factor in whether they will raise interest rates this summer.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech this week that a vote to leave the EU could have "significant economic repercussions."

The online ORB survey of 2,000 people is weighted to take into account people's likelihood of voting. The 55 percent of respondents in favor of leaving rose by 4 points from the last Independent poll in April.

Without weighting for turnout, the survey showed 53 percent of people believe Britain should exit the EU, while 47 percent say it should not.

Seventy-eight percent of "leave" supporters said they would definitely vote, while only 66 percent of "remain" supporters said the same, according to the report.