Donald J. Trump became the next president of the United States, global investors reacted as if the world had caught fire. They yanked their money from the marketplace in an unrestrained bout of selling reminiscent of the outbreak of war or a major terrorist attack.
They sold stocks — first in Asia, and then in Europe, with New York trading set for a fall as well, according to the futures markets. They sold oil and the Mexican peso, pushing it to a record low. They even sold the American dollar, which nearly always functions as a refuge in times of chaos, but suddenly seemed like a green piece of paper issued by a government seized by insurrection.
Other traditional havens, like gold and the Japanese yen, rose in moves that had all the hallmarks of what traders usually describe as a flight to safety. But the dollar’s decline underscored a stark new reality: This time, very little seemed safe.
As Mr. Trump offered his victory speech in New York — eschewing the crude and divisive rhetoric that has brought him accusations of racism, misogyny and recklessness — markets pared some of their losses. But the ink was still decidedly red.
It is said frequently that what markets crave more than anything is certainty. The globe suddenly seems in dire shortage of that.
During the campaign, he vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States. He repeatedly promised to slap punitive tariffs on imports from China, raising the prospect of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
Mr. Trump vowed to radically alter a host of agreements made between the American government and significant actors on the globe stage, from the Paris accord setting out targets to reduce the pollutants contributing to climate change, to the deal aimed at constraining Iran’s nuclear aspirations. He promised to escalate the battle against the Islamic State, intensifying bombing in Iraq and Syria. He vowed to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“This is a negative shock for markets,” said Ricardo Reis, an economist at the London School of Economics. “For sure, this is a huge increase in uncertainty. And for the most part what certainty is available seems bad. Like the Brexit vote, this raises the likelihood that trade deals will be repudiated and borders will be closed.”
In recent weeks, markets around the world had largely assumed the election would be won by Hillary Clinton, a known quantity with a track record in public life going back more than a quarter century.
But as returns emerged Tuesday evening, raising the possibility that two previously unimaginable words — “President Trump” — were on the verge of becoming official nomenclature, markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Australia and the rest of Asia dropped precipitously, shedding as much as 6 percent of their value by early afternoon.
As trading commenced in Europe, stock markets in Germany, Spain and Italy were all down more than 3 percent. London shares opened down some 2 percent, but then recovered somewhat.
Stock market futures indicated an almost-certain sell-off once Wall Street awoke. Futures on the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 4 percent, and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index plunged by about 5 percent, though both gained back some ground after Mr. Trump’s victory speech.
As currency markets fluctuated, they appeared to be functioning as barometers of national prospects in the wildly unpredictable new era unfolding.
But beyond such immediate concerns, the looming ascent of Mr. Trump to the most powerful office on earth has injected enormous variables into the calculations of those who control money. This appeared to be the message contained within the frenzied selling.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump will do all he said during his campaign, said Nigel Green, founder and chief executive officer of deVere Group, a financial management firm, in a note to clients. “For now,” he wrote, “Trump winning is sending shock waves across the world.”