Thoughts for Japan; and hints on Economic Aftershocks

The saddest news is that there are at least 44 reported fatalities so far from the severest earthquake to strike Japan in 140 years.

And it looks inevitable that that number will rise.

The 8.9 magnitude quake struck Japan’s northeast coast sending a tsunami wave at least 10-metres high into coastal areas of Japan. The wave may also hit regions of the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia.

As for the internal and external economic impact – we will have to wait for tighter assessments as it’s still too early and reports of the core event and the aftershocks are still trickling in.

In the meantime, the most immediate financial response meriting attention has been the Japanese yen’s relapse into definitive weakness from a position which was already ambivalent. The yen had crawled back toward moderate strength in recent days in recovery from recent surprise credit rating downgrades of the country’s sovereign debt and an uncertain political picture.

But following the quake, technical chart analysts are noting that the rate has suffered a significant setback off 83.30 and as I write, they note it’s at key projected support near 82.16.

Loss of 82.16 is said to imply the risk of 81.95; with 82.85 needed to negate that risk. 83.09 is said to be necessary for Friday’s high at 83.30 to again be feasible.

As for the more medium-term economic picture, a keyword which economists in this parish are citing is “repatriation.”

It seems like the risk of emergency repatriation of funds originating from Japan, in order to boost reconstruction, is greater than outright economic costs from damages and insurance [although of course these part of the picture in Japan itself.]

One economic specialist on Japan this morning did in fact query the potential downside for the yen from the quake.

“Japan has a very low level of foreign creditors, and there may actually not be much scope for JPY weakness, ” they said.

On the other hand they added: “It will be interesting to see whether or not the financial and insurance impact of this quake causes a more rapid repatriation of funds and foreign currency asset sales.”

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