Wall Street roared to life Wednesday in a wild day of trading that began with gut-wrenching selloffs in Europe and Asia following Donald Trump’s stunning upset in the U.S. presidential election.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 200 points, or about 1 percent, just before noon despite earlier turmoil in futures markets that had suggested it would suffer a 700-point plunge. The other two major indices, the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq, were both up roughly 1 percent.
Markets climbed as House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had confidence that Trump would lead a “unified Republican government,” even after a fractious election in which Ryan himself appeared conflicted about supporting the president-elect. In addition, Trump delivered a conciliatory acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, saying it was “time to bind the wounds of division.”
On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to address the suffering of workers left behind by globalization by ripping up free trade deals, imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico and China and restricting immigration. Many economists had warned such moves could spark a trade war and undercut the American recovery, and investors around the world initially panicked as Trump marched toward victory Tuesday evening.
But by Wednesday morning — and with a Republican sweep of both chambers of Congress — markets focused instead on the growing possibility that long-sought business reforms could become reality. Trump has also vowed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, slash corporate and individual taxes and cut back on regulations.
“He has focused on and promised faster economic growth, and he now has a Congress that can deliver on some of the key elements of his strategy for that,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and who helped advise Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.
Even the Mexican peso – which had fallen as the Republican nominee rose in the polls during his campaign – regained some ground after dropping to the lowest level since the 1990s.
The panic in the financial markets had stretched all the way to Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei index plunged more than 900 points, or 5.4 percent, Wednesday. In a flight to safety, gold charged higher, and the yen also surged.
In Europe, major indices reversed course through the trading day. The Stoxx Europe 600 index opened about 2 percent lower but turned positive in the afternoon. Germany’s main DAX index had fallen by around 1.6 percent before moving modestly into the green, and London’s FTSE-100 was rose 1 percent.
Some analysts said stability was driven in part by expectations that the Federal Reserve would not hike its benchmark interest rate in December. The central bank had hinted it was ready to move following signs of economic resilience, but that could be threatened amid the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s surprising win.
“If it were government by grudge, it’s tough to get economic policy-making done,” said Vincent Reinhart, chief economist for Standish Mellon. “Once you raise your voice to get what you want, then do something with what you’ve got.”
The prospect of a Trump presidency was enough to persuade Mexican leaders to meet last week to craft a “contingency plan” in the event of an “adverse” election result. The head of Mexico’s central bank has compared a President Trump to a “hurricane” that could damage the country’s economy. In addition to hiking tariffs on its exports to the United States, Trump has made building a wall along the Mexican border a hallmark of his campaign. Already, the declining value of the peso has factored into the central bank’s decision to boost interest rates.
“It’s the Pavlovian response: The bell rings, Trump does better, the Mexican [peso] sells off,” said Ed Shill, chief investment officer at QCI Asset Management.
Meanwhile, Japan’s financial authorities and the board of South Korea’s stock exchange called separate emergency meetings in their countries Wednesday morning to discuss the sharp fall in the financial markets.
“We haven’t taken any measures regarding the stock market reaction to the U.S. election yet, but we are constantly monitoring the markets and the U.S. elections,” said Kang Byung-mo, head of financial market analysis at Korea Exchange.