Daily Agenda: As the U.K. Votes, Markets Hold their Breath

Pound and equities strengthen as balloting begins; Twilio’s valuation a relief for unicorns; Democrats stage House protest on gun legislation.

The referendum on U.K. membership in the European Union continues to dominate market risk narratives, with both equity futures and the pound sterling strengthening in early trading, suggesting a degree of confidence among investors that the nation will remain in the EU. Implied volatility for options on the pound, however, suggest that many large allocators are hedging their exposures regardless. Final opinion polls suggest that neither campaigns have gained a significant lead among voters, leaving the possibility of a very close outcome. The final tally will probably not be available until after 9 p.m. London time, leaving markets in a holding pattern through the rest of the day. Twilio debuts at a higher-than-expected valuation. The initial public offering yesterday by Twilio, a cloud-based communications software provider, was priced higher than the initial range indicated by underwriters, raising $150 million at a valuation of $1.23 billion. The steep valuation is good news for other so-called unicorns, pre-IPO startups with valuations above a billion dollars.

Democrats sit in on Capitol Hill. Yesterday evening, protesting Democratic lawmakers protesting the refusal of House Republican leadership to bring gun reform legislation to a floor vote, shouted down Speaker Paul Ryan. The clash came in the wake of the mass shooting in an Orlando, Florida nightclub that killed 50. GOP lawmakers criticized the protests, supporting the attempts of gun lobby groups to prevent any restrictions on the ability of individuals labeled as potential threats from purchasing weapons.

Bank of America to settle with Feds. The Wall Street Journal has reported that negotiations between Bank of America Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Commission over client account maintenance is nearing a conclusion. According to unnamed sources, the final fine will be between $400 million and $450 million. The SEC probe, initially disclosed by the lender in spring 2015, focused on whether calculations of capital required to meet obligations to clients was properly calculated.

European PMI disappoints. Preliminary June PMI data for Europe released today by Markit was softer than anticipated with the eurozone aggregate index registering at 52.8 versus consensus forecasts for 53.1 despite better-than-forecast manufacturing specific figures. Both French manufacturing and services indices registered a contraction for the month.

Jobless claims fall again. Weekly initial unemployment claim data released today by the Department of Labor revealed fewer job seekers in the U.S. during the week ending June 18. Total claims dropped by 18,000 to 259,000, significantly better than consensus economist forecasts. The slow pace of layoffs indicates that the U.S. labor market is becoming tighter, suggesting to some economists that payrolls may rise in coming months.