Will Donald Trump be a disaster for the ASX?

One week has passed since it became apparent Donald Trump would replace Barack Obama as the next President of the United States of America.

At the time, investors around the world didn’t know what to make of the news. First, they lashed out. Gold prices surged on the uncertainty while the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) tanked as much as 3.9% — one of its sharpest intraday falls in recent memory. Things weren’t looking good for international markets at that stage, either, with the S&P/500 futures pointing to a huge selloff in US shares that night as well.

What happened next took almost everybody by surprise. Gold prices have since plummeted, taking stocks such as St Barbara Ltd (ASX: SBM) and EVOLUTION FPO (ASX: EVN) along for the ride. Meanwhile, markets around the world actually ended their sessions higher on Wednesday night despite the initial shock, with Australia’s ASX 200 also enjoying a magnificent rebound on Thursday last week.

Unfortunately, the market’s responses have been based on pure speculation. We don’t know what kind of President America will get at this stage: will we see the same Donald Trump as the one we saw throughout his candidacy? Or will we get the more ‘presidential’ version of Trump – the one we have glimpsed on occasions, including during his acceptance speech, which no doubt played a role in calming the market’s nerves.

Should you buy miners?

The market has recovered all of its losses since the US election took place last week. The ASX 200 is currently sitting at 5,332 points – up from 5,257 points prior to the vote and from the low of 5,052 points during the market’s plunge.

Resources businesses have played a key role in that rebound. BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP), for instance, is sitting almost 10% higher than its intraday low last Wednesday thanks to a surging iron ore price. Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) and Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX: FMG) have also benefited.

Many investors will wonder whether now is the time to buy into resources shares. After all, Donald Trump has proposed to generate huge growth in the US economy by throwing billions of dollars at new infrastructure projects which would require commodities such as iron ore and coal.

Commodity prices have surged higher which is likely, in part, a response to this proposal. However, many fear that the rallies are unsustainable for the long run. If commodity prices retreat – as iron ore did overnight – the miners themselves could get pulled down alongside them, hurting those investors who jumped in too soon.

Should you buy gold?

Gold is often seen as a safe haven asset during times of heightened uncertainty. The precious metal certainly rose in response to Trump’s election victory, but soon plummeted again as investors weighed up the potentially huge economic growth that could be experienced under Trump’s administration, at least in the short term.

Indeed, gold can fall just as quickly as it rises. To borrow a quote from legendary investor Warren Buffett:

“Gold is a way of going long on fear, and it has been a pretty good way of going long on fear from time to time. But you really have to hope people become more afraid in a year or two years than they are now. And if they become more afraid you make money, if they become less afraid you lose money, but the gold itself doesn’t produce anything.”

What happens next?

Plenty has been said and written about what will happen to the share market and the economy next. Unfortunately the things that have been said have varied widely to provide little clarification for investors.

Some suggest Trump will be excellent for shares given the growth his policies could create. Others suggest shares will falter, particularly thanks to rising interest rates, with Wilson Asset Management chairman Geoff Wilson forecasting a 5% fall for the ASX 200 by late next year, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Firstly, there are a very wide range of possible outcomes under the Trump regime. Some of those could be excellent for the economy and share market, while others could be quite the opposite. As investors, it would be wise to keep a range of different scenarios in mind and plan accordingly.

For example, if you’re bullish on what Trump’s presidency could mean for the share market, ensure you also plan for a scenario in which that goes pear shaped. Ensure you have a diversified portfolio and hold some cash, one, so you don’t have all your wealth exposed to the market, and two, so you can go shopping for cheap stocks if the market does head south.

It’s also important to remember that this isn’t the first time the market has faced a period of uncertainty. Granted, this is a major event, and I’m not in any way trying to discount that. But uncertainty does have a way of creating opportunity for investors, and this time is unlikely to be any different.

Stay calm. Be prepared. And be on the lookout for potentially great opportunities if or when they appear.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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