"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Market Impacting News

There's a lot of stuff going on out there. Here's some highlights.
  • Internationally, equities have recovered somewhat. The Tokyo exchange is up about 4% on reports of progress in containing radiation leaks at Fukushima, but oil and gold were up on the fighting in Libya and the unrest in the Middle East. The euro hit $1.4249 on expectations that the European Central Bank will raise interest rates next month. JPMorgan analysts are also expecting to see crude oil prices rise further once the Japanese nuclear crisis is resolved and the nation shifts to reconstruction.
  • Japan parts paralysis spreads as firms cut output. Sony has cut output at five more factories (bringing the total number affected to 15 out of 25), which produce digital and video cameras, televisions and microphones. A sixth plant could reopen Tuesday, but could be disrupted by rolling blackouts. Toyota has delayed restarting all 12 of its Japanese assembly plants until at least Saturday. Iron mining company Rio Tinto has warned that these supply disruptions are a threat to their expansion plans, and companies such as Apple, GM, and Nokia are also feeling the impact.
  • Steam is venting from Fukushima reactor No. 2, and haze has been seen above reactor No. 3. On the up side, technicians have managed to attach power cables to all six reactors and have started at least one of the cooling pumps. Radiation has been found in seawater near the plant - specifically radioactive iodine (at 126.7 times the allowed limit) and cesium (at 24.8 times the allowed limit). However, according to a TEPCO official, "it would have to be drunk for a whole year in order to accumulate to one millisievert.[1]" The Japanese government has stopped shipments of milk, spinach, and kakina[2] from the area for the time being.
  • On top of everything else, fuel shortages, icy rain, and power outages are slowing efforts to get humanitarian aid into Japan. Right now, estimates put damage at $250 billion with 21,000 dead or missing. 2.4 million people are without access to water, and 221,000 households remain without power.
  • The Norwegian Institute for Air Research has detected traces of radioactive particles from Japan in Iceland. "It's only a matter of days before it disperses in the entire northern hemisphere," says Andreas Stohl, a senior scientist for the Institute, "Over Europe there would be no concern about human health."
[1] A sievert, symbol Sv, is the SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. For comparison, public dose limits for exposure to radiation are usually at 1 millisievert (1 mSv) per year above background. The maximum permissible dose to radiation workers is an average of 20 mSv per year, with no more than 40 mSv in a single year. Sleeping next to a human being for 8 hours a night, every night, for a year exposes you to 0.02 mSv, eating a banana exposes you to 0.0001 mSv, the sky exposes you to 0.24 mSv per year, and smoking 1.5 packs per day exposes you to between 13 and 60 mSv per year. For a more visual look, check out this Radiation Dose Chart.
[2] Some sort of Japanese vegetable. I got nothing, here.

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