U.S. investors are sure to collect dozens of reports and images detailing the human impact of a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northeast Japan on Friday afternoon.
Initially, of course, the impact was swift. The Nikkei Stock Average ended 1.7% lower, at 10,254. Shares had dropped off in late trading as news of the earthquake, which struck just after 2 p.m. Friday afternoon in Japan, first began to spread.
Elsewhere, as Japan’s trading day closed and European and American markets opened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average also dipped in early trading, then fluctuated throughout the day. At press time, the index was up 0.75%. In London, the FTSE 100 wrapped up the weekend falling 0.28%.
But a 1.7% drop in the Nikkei is not devastation. This is the country that sent the world images of infernos at refineries, the fury of whirlpools at sea, and boats at port cities being tossed around like children’s bath toys. It already suggests that by Monday morning, the financial markets will have priced it in as a minor bump in a global bull market.
“While there was the initial fear that this would sack the Japanese economy, it was too small to make any difference,” said Ken Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of Fisher Investments, in Woodside, Calif.
Investors and financial planners would need to see a lot more evidence that the natural disaster would severely impact the Japanese gross domestic product, said Ken Solow, CFP, the chief investment officer at Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia Maryland.
Emerging market opportunities are a buy right now, because they dipped severely, and are underweight. At press time, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets was up just 1.08%, after a big intraday dip.
Solow added that the cleanup and repair from the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck in 1995, known as the Kobe earthquake, cost the equivalent of 2.5% of the Japanese GDP at the time. That was a different scenario, when building codes were less stringent and property owners and insurance did not cover nearly enough of the cost of the cleanup.
Now, however, the yen is rallying, which Solow attributes to carry trades by investors hoping to borrow yen to buy riskier assets. “This is another grain of sand in the story that says we are due for a correction,” Solow said.
There has been a big sell off in global insurers. American International Group [AIG] took a hard smack before rallying again with a 1.78% gain.
“Those folks who are believers that this is a corrective phase, see this as an opportunity to add to positions in technology, energy and industrials,” Solow said.
Anthony Davidow, managing director and portfolio strategist at New York-based Rydex|SGI, said the disaster will most likely have ancillary benefits on the Asia-ex Japan region, which might be called on to help in the rebuilding efforts there.
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