Well, the bookies and pollsters got it wrong (again) and the unthinkable has happened — a majority of the British people have chosen to turn their backs on Europe and have voted for Brexit.

The FTSE 100 (INDEXFTSE: UKX) responded with a slump of 549 points when the market opened, to 5,789 points for a drop of 8.7%. As I write, the index of top shares has recovered a little from that level, standing 5% down at 6,018 points, and that relatively small fall does surprise me by its mildness — many punters were expecting a sustained fall of around 7% to 10%.

Which shares have been hit the hardest?

Losers and winners

Well, in a sea of red, a few do stand out. As widely expected, the banks have been badly hit. Lloyds Banking Group shares are down 20% to 57.4p, having been under 51p earlier in the morning, while Barclays shares have dropped 18% to 155p, after dropping as low as 131p on opening. Similarly, Royal Bank of Scotland shares have lost 18% to 205p.

Those are bad, but they’re not as terrifying as the falls suggest by some analysts, who had been warning of drops of 40%, 35% and 25% for Barclays, Lloyds and RBS, respectively. For now, at least. But there could be further downward pressure when US markets open and the shock is felt around the world.

The UK’s housebuilders are top of the losers list, as the Brexit result is expected by many to lead to a short-term fall in house prices — Taylor Wimpey shares fell 25% to 145p, and Persimmon lost 24% to hit 1,588p.

The pound slumped to a 30-year low this morning, trading at just $1.39 at mid-morning, and that’s sent scared investors running in the direction of gold, which has jumped to $1,317 per ounce. That’s given gold mining shares a boost, to top the table of FTSE winners — Randgold Resources gained 16%, Acacia Mining 15%, and Fresnillo 11%.

Investors’ choice

What should investors do now? I really am minded of one of my favourite ever investing quotes, from Sir John Templeton: “Invest at the point of maximum pessimism“. And I don’t think I’ve felt this pessimistic for a very long time.

Although the Brexiteers deny it, I think it’s inevitable that the banking sector will suffer. But it does seem as if maximum suffering has already been built into the share prices as a result of maximum pessimism. On a P/E of only around 7.5 now, Lloyds shares surely must be oversold, mustn’t they? And similarly for Barclays on a forward P/E of only 7.2! I’m sure EPS forecasts will be downgraded now, but I reckon that’s still unlikely to damage the attractiveness of these valuations.

Similarly, the reaction of the markets to housebuilding shares looks shortsighted. What if house prices fall in the short term? That’s when land gets cheaper and the companies can buy up more of it for later building — in fact, the last recession was the best time to have bought housebuilder shares in a generation.

Profit margins should even out in the long term, and I see Taylor Wimpey on a P/E of 8.3 and Persimmon on 8.6 as solid long-term buys right now, made more attractive by the day’s big falls.

In short, buy when everyone else is selling, and be greedy when others are fearful!

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Alan Oscroft owns shares of Lloyds Banking Group. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.