As voting results came in, the British pound dropped more than 10 percent to a low $1.34 per pound. It's being heralded as the sharpest one-day decline the pound has ever seen. (Reuters)

The United Kingdom voted Thursday to leave the European Union, a historic turn that underscored the deep fraying of the European political and economic union. It will take days, months and years to fully grapple with the consequences, but the earliest reactions from markets seemed to confirm experts' fears that Brexit would be deeply disruptive. While markets have previously been buffeted by global financial shocks -- including Greece's crisis last year -- many experts did not think the U.K. would actually take the gamble of leaving the E.U. It's certainly possible that markets will calm down overnight and throughout the weekend — no one can promise to offer an accurate forecast — but immediate signs from across the world were alarming.

Here are five glaring alarm signs:

1. The Bloomberg terminal screen perhaps offers the world's first broadest reaction to the news, and it was flashing red all over with headlines early Friday morning. The screen noted heavy losses across Asian stock markets, while also noting that foreign currencies were strengthening against the British pound. Yields on U.S. Treasuries were falling, a sign of a flight to safety among investors.

2. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, which has held up in the face of worries about Brexit in recent weeks, appeared primed for deep declines Friday. At half past midnight, S&P futures, which are traded throughout the night, were down 5 percent.

3. This alert from CNBC showed how almost no market was untouched by the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 600 points, while gold had climbed $100 an ounce. Gold is often an asset investors buy in times of panic.

4. As noted, investors often put money into gold when other assets, like stocks and bonds, become more risky. Google search data indicated a massive spike in searches for how to buy gold Thursday night.

5. The British pound fell more than 10 percent in the wake of Brexit, a shocking decline for a rich country's currency in a single day.


Here are three big ways that Britain leaving the E.U. might affect Americans. (Daron Taylor,Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)