If markets reflect the wisdom of the crowds, then the victory of Donald Trump, who trailed his rival Hillary Clinton in almost every pre-election survey, knocked the bottom off India’s equities. The 30-share benchmark Sensex shed 1,500 points, close to 4 per cent of its value at opening.
Earlier in the morning, a team led by analyst Saugat Acharya of ratings company ICRA had optimistically attributed a strengthening of the rupee against the dollar to “easing concerns over the results of the US elections (read a Clinton victory) boosted investors’ risk appetite”.
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That risk appetite seems to have evaporated with a Trump victory, raising concerns about increased protectionism in America and curbs on immigration of Indian professionals. The former could lead to tighter norms for exports of generic Indian drugs to the US. The former could dent the bottom lines of India’s IT companies, already under pressure from shrinking margins.
There are other worries as well. “US farm policies and subsidies have devastated farmer livelihoods across the world. These will continue whoever is in the White House, but Trump might increase this support with his promises to boost American incomes,” says Ajay Vir Jakhar, founder of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a lobby group of progressive farmers.
Trump’s unlikely victory has led many in India to ask whether the ideas of enlightened liberalism proposed by America’s founding fathers are on the wane.
“Trump’s campaign brought Islamophobia and racism to the forefront in supposedly the most ‘mature’ democracy in the world… It will be a divided USA, with the administration struggling to revive growth, maintain racial harmony and keep terror at bay,” said Mukul Gogoi, an infrastructure consultant.
Not everyone here is so pessimistic, though. Somnath Banerjee, a medical doctor, believes that a Republican regime in Washington might help reduce US support for regimes like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and lead to a de-escalation of tension in the Middle East.
“One good thing might be a reduction of Sunni influence on US policy, that has been a huge negative factor globally for the last 50 years,” he said.
Which of these scenarios come true is tough to predict. But Jakhar maintains that America “has made a very tough choice between the frying pan and the fire”.