By Denise Roland in London and Sean McLain in Tokyo

Corporate Europe and Asia went back to work in an another radically changed political landscape--the second time in recent months--as they weighed up the ramifications of Donald Trump's surprise election win.

In the wake of June's Brexit vote--which sent global businesses scrambling to size up what that surprise outcome might mean for them--executives and investors started wrestling with a new, bigger puzzle: How Mr. Trump's leadership of the globe's biggest economy--and the market for much of the stuff the rest of the world makes--will affect their bottom lines.

Investors were picking early winners and losers.

The Nikkei index of big Japanese stocks ended Asian trading down 5%. Shares fell sharply in Japanese and South Korean auto makers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., which lean heavily on manufacturing U.S.-bound exports from Mexico. Mr. Trump has railed against free-trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and has threatened steep tariffs on automotive exports from south of the border.

Big pharmaceutical stocks, however, shot higher in Europe after being weighed down for months by the prospect of a pricing crackdown in the U.S. during a Hillary Clinton presidency. Pharmaceutical companies also are widely regarded as a haven during periods of political turmoil.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC and AstraZeneca PLC both rose sharply in early London trading. In premarket trading, Pfizer Inc. was up sharply, too.

U.S. stock futures plunged overnight but had rebounded somewhat by midday European time. The FTSE 100 index of British blue chips was down only slightly. Gold prices soared early on haven buys, lifting some mining stocks.

BAE Systems PLC, Europe's biggest arms maker, rose early Wednesday. Mr. Trump had signaled before his election victory that European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would have to contribute more to their own defense.

Whether any of these moves end up being knee-jerk reactions, or early signals of which global sectors may benefit from a Trump presidency, is far from clear. Many of Mr. Trump's policy statements so far have been vague and open to interpretation, and he has been known to swerve on positions radically.

For many investors and executives, a Clinton victory was expected to provide more immediate clarity about key business-related policy initiatives in a new administration. That is despite that on the campaign trail, she has targeted big businesses--including pharmaceuticals firms--as ripe for scrutiny.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has been more outspoken about the pitfalls of global trade deals, and has vowed to roll them back. That has spooked global executives and industry officials who depend on them.

"We hope President Trump is more nuanced than candidate Trump," said Jake Parker, vice president of China operations of the U.S.-China Business Council.

Germany's industry federation BDI warned early Wednesday of "massive uncertainties in the economy" after the Trump victory, and the business group called on the president-elect not to close off the U.S. from the rest of the world.

"Donald Trump is well advised not to shut off the U.S. economy from the world or else the uncertainty about the future course will lead to considerable negative effects on the global economy," BDI President Ulrich Grillo said. The U.S. is Germany's largest export market. Some 5,000German firms have operations in the U.S., according to the BDI.

Few global executives were commenting specifically about the results, but some were weighing up the ramifications for their industry. Henri Poupart-Lafarge, chief executive of French train manufacturer Alstom SA, said he saw a potential positive impact for his company.

"It is early to tell, but Donald Trump had announced huge investments in infrastructure," Mr. Poupart-Lafarge told analysts in a conference call held on Wednesday morning, hours after the results of the U.S. election were made public.

In an open letter to the new president-elect, chief executives affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, a U.S. trade group in Washington, offered an early olive branch after a sometimes-frosty relationship between the Trump campaign and big business.

"We can be constructive--both when we agree and when we do not--if we can all approach challenging situations in good faith," the group wrote. The more than 1,100 signatures included Dennis A. Muilenburg of Boeing Co., Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp., David Taylor, CEO of Procter & Gamble Co., and Gregory Hayes of United Technologies Corp.

Some companies had more parochial approaches. The chief executive of Volkswagen AG, embroiled in a diesel-engine emissions scandal and big settlement talks with the U.S. government, said he hoped the Trump win wasn't a negative in those talks, saying he would prefer to wrap up the deal with the current administration.

Inti Landauro in Paris, William Boston in Berlin and Eva Dou in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to Denise Roland at Denise.Roland@wsj.com and Sean McLain at sean.mclain@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 09, 2016 07:53 ET (12:53 GMT)

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