LONDON - Equity investors froze Friday at the prospect of a tight finish to the US presidential race while Britain’s pound powered on after a court ruling threw Brexit plans into fresh turmoil.

European stocks swung lower on persistent fears that maverick US tycoon Donald Trump could win next week’s election and beat market favourite Hillary Clinton. “What started as a few jitters morphed into a full-on panic attack this Friday, the European indices plunging at the prospect of Trump moving into the White House,” noted Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

Wall Street held in slightly positive territory after a solid US jobs report, but investors still mostly stayed on the sidelines ahead of the November 8 election, giving markets “a clear risk-off tone”, said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.

The US economy added 161,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 percent, according to the Labor Department.

While this would normally strengthen the case for a Fed rate hike in December, much still hinges on Tuesday’s vote .

“US monetary policy would be expected by many to remain looser for longer in the event of a win for Trump,” said John Higgins at Capital Economics.

Sterling meanwhile hit $1.25, a level last seen a month ago, as Prime Minister Theresa May said her March deadline for triggering Brexit negotiations “remains unchanged” despite a landmark legal ruling. The High Court ruled Thursday the government must seek parliamentary approval before starting EU exit talks, sowing doubts that May’s timetable would hold.

“The High Court ruling has introduced a whole new set of political uncertainties,” Rabobank analyst Jane Foley told AFP.

“However, since most of these are seen as reducing the chances of a bitter divorce from the European Union’s single market, the pound is better supported.”

Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned Thursday that the ruling for a parliamentary vote on Article 50 was part of the “uncertainty” arising from Brexit, after the institution held British interest rates at 0.25 percent.

“It is a sign of just how fearful investors are that the pound , the market’s most persistent victim in the past few months, has been allowed to graze $1.25 against the dollar,” Spreadex’s Campbell said.

“This extra burst of energy is stemming from concerns over which way America will vote next week.” Fawad Razaqzada, a technical analyst at Forex.com, told AFP that investors no longer expect rate cuts from the Bank of England because of inflationary fears , which helps explain the pound’s strength.  “I think $1.28 or even $1.30 could be realistic year-end targets, though I can’t see it going much further than that,” he said. Tokyo stocks fell sharply, while precious metal gold maintained its appeal as a safe store of value in times of uncertainty. Former secretary of state Clinton is considered by most investors to be a safer, more stable bet than Trump, who is seen as a loose cannon, with policies many fear could wreck the world’s top economy.

Oil fell back amid talk that Saudi Arabia may raise output again to bring prices down if Iran fails to join OPEC production cuts.