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Shockwave of Trump's victory sends markets reeling
THE selling began timorously on Wednesday morning. Was consensus that far off the mark?
But as count after count began to reveal Republican party nominee Donald Trump as the unexpected frontrunner for the US presidency, the drip became a crashing wave. Shocked investors dumped risky assets and poured into safe havens when it became clear that the New York property baron would be the next leader of the world's largest superpower - and with a Republican sweep of Congress to boot.
The initial knee-jerk reaction - triggered by his anti-establishment rhetoric, his fierce opposition to free trade with China and Mexico and his casual attitude towards not paying back US government debt in full - eventually gave way to a cautious recovery after he delivered a victory speech that calmed nerves.
Analysts reckon that a Trump presidency may abandon some of the campaign's more extremist positions, and that his plans for aggressive infrastructure spending might even boost the economy in the near term.
Asian markets opened on Wednesday, reflecting expectations that Mr Trump's chief rival, Hillary Clinton, would win the election.
IG market strategist Pan Jingyi said: "Ahead of the release of the results, the market was anticipating a Clinton win, with the clear lead she was holding in polls.
"However, a feeling of déjà vu likely hit the markets as the swing states swung gradually towards the Republicans."
The Singapore Straits Times Index fell as much as 2.1 per cent at one point, and then clawed back earlier losses to close the day at 2,760.97, down 1.08 per cent or 30.36 points.
The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong shed 2.16 per cent to 22,415.1; Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 5.36 per cent to 16,251.54.
US stock futures plunged 5 per cent, hitting circuit-breaker limits that barred a further fall until the US stock markets opened. Wall Street opened only slightly down but recovered in early trade.
What comes next hinges on expectations of what Mr Trump's policies might be, and on this front, the consensus is that there is a significant amount of uncertainty.
DBS chief investment officer Lim Say Boon wrote in a note: "Beyond the immediate reaction, markets will watch for what we had earlier described as 'where Presidential hopeful Donald Trump's rhetoric stops and where President Donald Trump's policies start'."
Mr Trump's campaign promise to raise infrastructure spending could improve earnings momentum globally, said Credit Suisse Asia-Pacific chief investment officer John Woods. His firm is now neutral on equities after being underweight on them heading into the election.
In emerging Asia, the key risk lies in Mr Trump's numerous threats to target trade with China, which could set off a trade war between the economic giants.
But while most analysts urged caution on equities, some of them are hoping that Mr Trump might retreat from his most extreme positions, or that even if he does pursue them, the impact may be muted.
Australian bank Westpac said: "Fears about the direct impact on China of these trade policies in the US should not be overstated. China has been moving towards a service-driven economy, and has ample policy flexibility to boost domestic demand to partially compensate for any direct shock to exports to the US."
JP Morgan Asset Management global market strategist Jasslyn Yeo advocated looking for companies that can deliver quality earnings growth. Healthcare, especially pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, will probably benefit from the fact that Mr Trump's defeated rival, Hillary Clinton, will no longer be able to carry out her promise of imposing price caps on drugs, Ms Yeo said.
The US dollar weakened against safe-haven currencies like the yen, but strengthened sharply against the Mexican peso.
Against the yen, the greenback retreated about 2 per cent for an exchange rate of 103.112 yen for every US$1. The US dollar strengthened slightly against the Singapore dollar, up about 0.38 per cent to S$1.39 for every US$1.
The peso took the worst hit, losing 8.5 per cent of its value against the US dollar to 19.88 pesos per US dollar, on fears that Mr Trump would go after trade with America's southern neighbour.
Bank of Singapore investment strategist James Cheo said: "If Trump pursues his anti-trade policies, it is negative for Mexico, Canada and most of Asia. Therefore, US trade-dependent currencies of the Mexican peso, Canadian dollar and Asian currencies would underperform under such a scenario."
Interest rates are expected to continue on an upward path, although confidence of a US Federal Reserve rate hike in December have come off slightly, with the futures-implied probability of a December rise dropping to 50 per cent on Wednesday, from about 75 per cent previously.
OCBC senior investment strategist Vasu Menon said: "Given that no one really knows what Mr Trump's economic policies would look like, the Fed may err on the side of caution and put policy tightening on hold until there is some clarity."
JP Morgan Asset Management's Ms Yeo said that the US economy is set to shift from a reliance on monetary policy to one dependent on fiscal spending: "A shift toward fiscal policy would be a net negative for developed-market government bonds, including US Treasuries, because moves by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan would reduce demand for bonds. Meanwhile, bond supply would rise to finance additional fiscal spending.
"We increase our caution on developed-market government bonds as these assets trade at very expensive valuations and relatively high duration risks, as bond yields move higher."
When fears are at their worst, gold shines the brightest.
The price of an ounce of the precious metal for December delivery rose 2.6 per cent to US$1,307.35 on Wednesday.
Ms Yeo sees support for gold ahead, with a number of challenges to the European Union on the calendar ahead. "Gold always benefits when there's more uncertainty and volatility."
Nomura head of international research Kevin Gaynor warned of more unrest in Europe, and that populist sentiment there could be under-reported in the same way that polls missed on support for Mr Trump and for Britain's exit from European Union.
"Holland, France and Germany will all be now shifting 4 per cent toward the second- or third-place party," he said.
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