The U.S. dollar sank and stock markets slammed into reverse in wild Asian trade on Wednesday as the results so far showed the race to be a nail-biter, sending investors stampeding to safe-haven assets.
Sovereign bonds and gold shot higher while the Mexican peso went into near free-fall as investors faced the possibility of a Trump win. Investors worry a victory by the New York businessman could cause economic and global uncertainty.
With voting completed in 44 of the 50 U.S. states, the race was tight in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, leaving the race for the White House on a knife's edge.
Both candidates scored victories in states where they were expected to win. Trump captured conservative states in the South and Midwest, while Clinton swept several states on the East Coast and Illinois in the Midwest.
After running close throughout the night in Virginia, Clinton was projected by Fox News to pull out the swing state that is home to her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine. No other network had yet called the race there.
But Trump's slight edge in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio gave him an early advantage in the state-by-state fight for 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.
Clinton had more options to reach 270, with Trump needing a virtual sweep of about six toss-up states to win. But a Trump win in those three states would leave Clinton needing to win the remaining battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan and either Nevada or New Hampshire.
At 8:55 p.m. EST, Clinton tweeted: "This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything."
With 95 percent of the vote counted in Florida, Trump led Clinton by about 130,000 votes out of 9 million cast. In Ohio, with 70 percent cast, Trump led by nearly 400,000 votes out of 3.9 million cast. In North Carolina, Trump led by about 100,00 votes out of 3.9 million cast.
As of 10 p.m. EST, Trump had 139 electoral votes to Clinton’s 104, with U.S. television networks projecting the winner in 26 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Going into Election Day, Clinton led Trump, 44 percent to 39 percent in the last Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll. A Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation poll gave her a 90 percent chance of defeating Trump and becoming the first woman elected U.S. president.
Also at stake on Tuesday was control of Congress. Television networks projected Republicans would retain control of the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for grabs.
In the Senate, where Republicans were defending a slim four-seat majority, Democrats scored their first breakthrough in Illinois when Republican Senator Mark Kirk lost re-election. But Republicans Rob Portman in Ohio and Marco Rubio in Florida won high-profile Senate re-election fights.
In a presidential campaign that focused more on the character of the candidates than on policy, Clinton, 69, a former U.S. secretary of state, and Trump, 70, accused each other of being fundamentally unfit to lead the country.
Trump again raised the possibility on Tuesday of not accepting the election's outcome, saying he had seen reports of voting irregularities. He gave few details and Reuters could not immediately verify the existence of such problems.