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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Bank of Japan

U.S. Corp and the impending IMF merger

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by Robert Denner
of Daily Economic Update
Posted December 1, 2011

BEEN LOTS OF TALK AROUND LATELY REGARDING THE COLLAPSE OF THE U.S. DOLLAR AND WHAT THAT WOULD MEAN FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE WORLD. There has also been a lot of talk about the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States of America and how unhappy the people of the US are getting with this largely unknown organization.

These two forces are converging together in what could be a very serious and detrimental way as it relates to the average US citizen. This article will rely heavily on flawed analogies to help the lay person understand the inner workings of both the IMF and the Federal Reserve Bank. This is not to be taken as an academic piece and I would ask that it not be judged as such. This is meant to help those people that have recently woken up to the reality that their country has been hi-jacked and those that are desperate to get up to speed as quickly as possible. So let’s jump right into the thick of it shall we? First we need to start with what I hope are simple lessons so that you can take what I am about to teach you and apply it to the real world.

There is one thing that bankers and computer people love to do and that is to use big scary acronyms to scare off the simple folk. So here is your first lesson.

IMF and the SDR

So right off the bat we are using acronyms that mean absolutely NOTHING to the lay person and yet that is an actual sentence believe it or not… IMF stands for the International Monetary Fund. The SDR is short for Special Drawing Rights and is the currency of the IMF. The International Monetary Fund is a private bank that is used to help sovereign nations engage in international commerce. Just like if you owned a company and you used bank A, and your supplier used Bank B, the IMF would be the bank that both banks A and B used to transfer payments and credits back and forth to each other. To Company A and B (using Bank A and B) it would be seamless.

But the IMF does a whole lot more for the global economy. They are the creditor of last resort for a lot of countries. For if you want to engage in international commerce in the free world (meaning the world now) you must be a part of the IMF system. Should a country that is part of this system become over leveraged because of mismanagement and debt accumulation, the IMF stands ready to come to the rescue. To understand how this relationship has worked in the past (and the present); I MUST go into some history. I will keep it brief I promise.

To understand how the global monetary/commercial world works you have to go back to the end of World War II. Following the war the United States was alone as a major industrial power. The rest of the industrial countries were in shambles. The United States was also nearly alone as a producer of oil. It is this later point that needs to be highlighted.

The United States used its vast oil reserves and coupled it with a highly trained industrial labor force and put it to work in its vast expanse of industrial capacity to re-build the rest of the world. It is this fact that is at the very center of our current monetary system some 60 years later. So I will start with my first analogy…

The US Corp could be seen as a huge company like General Motors. Following WWII US Corp was the only company left with the capacity to make things and it had the working capital and energy to do what it wanted. US Corp went out into the world and started to acquire other businesses. First was Japan Corp which US Corp had beaten into a pulp during the war. US Corp decided that it was in its own best interest to build Japan Corp back up but it needed to make sure that it never again could threaten US Corp the way it did in WWII.  Japan Corp used its own currency called the YEN and US Corp obviously used the Dollar. So to make this all work, US Corp had to make sure that the workers at Japan Corp didn’t feel like the last of their country was being taken from them. To keep them vested in the viability of their own country it was very important to let them keep their own currency and their own political structure, albeit greatly modified under the surface. We allowed Japan Corp to keep their figurehead CEO (the Emperor) and we installed a new board of directors (Democratic institutions). We linked the Bank of Japan to US Corp’s bank the Federal Reserve Bank through a new institution called the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

If we were to compare this to General Motors this would be like GM buying another company and bringing it under the umbrella of the GM brand. So in this case Japan is like Pontiac and they are given free rein to run their subsidiary the way they see fit, SO LONG as they abide by the parent companies rules.

This setup worked wonderfully and within a decade Japan Corp was back on its feet and was supplying cheap labor and products for US Corp and with every single barrel of oil Japan Corp bought on the international market it further linked them with our monetary system.  To keep the Japanese citizens from feeling that it was the US Corp in charge of everything we came up with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Of course these institutions were funded initially by the United States and Great Britain and as such they were just pseudo US institutions. But it worked and the Japanese subsidiary of US Corp gladly bought oil and products from the United States in its own currency (the Yen) but it was linked via the IMF to the US Dollar. For you see US Corp linked everything that the industrial world needed to the US Dollar. All gold/oil/silver/food/etc were priced first in US Dollars and depending upon the relative “strength” of your currency to the US Dollar, this would dictate how much of your currency it would take to purchase a barrel of oil or an ounce of gold. This gave US Corp a huge advantage in the world as we produced almost everything anyways. We had most of the world’s oil supply and a very large portion of the food supply. We were the largest producer of the big complex things the world needed to rebuild. We allowed the smaller subsidiaries to produce the little stuff we needed or wanted. Japan Corp was great at the later, supplying us with small radios and other cool electronic gadgets.

US Corp built a company with dozens and dozens of subsidiaries, each one of them bringing something to the table either large or small. And as the world re-built, other countries wanted to get in on the good times and they voluntarily sold themselves to US Corp. Other countries were very reluctant to join our big happy company. Those countries fell into two groups. Either they were affiliated with Russia Corp or they wanted to stay neutral. But in a world that was moving fast towards globalization it became apparent that each country would have to choose a side lest they be shut out of the global market. For remember that the only way to gain access to US Corp’s vast array of markets and supplies is to be a part of the IMF/World Bank. It was the only way to convert your currency to other currencies (like the US Dollar to buy OIL!!).

I will end this history lesson there as I could get sucked in for hours explaining how US Corp and Russia Corp went to economic(and sometimes real) war with each other and how Russia Corp tried to have it both ways by linking themselves partially to the IMF to gain access to US Corps vast supplies and labor.

I will leave that to YOU to go out and study on your own as it is a story to rival any fictional book you have ever read. The important thing to take away here is that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are institutions that were created by the United States and Great Britain. It is a global system that allows countries using different currencies to exchange their goods and services with each other almost seamlessly. Remember also that the system was setup INITIALLY to allow US Corp to control the world’s most important supplies. Things like FOOD, OIL, COMMODITIES (gold,silver,etc) and the rest. At the time this system was created it was the United States that was supplying the lion’s share of these items. But as the decades have come and gone, these items have increasingly come from other parts of the world.  And a good portion of these countries are ones that were FORCED into our system either out of necessity or by direct manipulation of their country by forces outside their borders(meaning the US and the IMF).

CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN

This next part of our story is centered on how the US has maintained its spot at the top of the economic order even in the face of massive budget deficits and seemingly unending debt loads. The title of this section is called Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, as I give a nod to a book of the same name written by a man named John Perkins. Mr. Perkins is a trained economists and his specialty was international finance. His job was to go out into the world and sell foreign leaders on US Corp and to convince them to get on board with our system. Or more importantly, it was his job to make sure that they were forever caught up in our system and that they did not attempt to leave our company.

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The Economic Death Spiral has been triggered

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by Gordon T. Long
Posted originally May 27, 2011 
This posting has been abbreviated slightly

For nearly 30 years we have had two Global Strategies working in a symbiotic fashion that has created a virtuous economic growth spiral. Unfortunately, the economic underpinnings were flawed and as a consequence, the virtuous cycle has ended.  It is now in the process of reversing and becoming a vicious downward economic spiral.

One of the strategies is the Asian Mercantile Strategy.  The other is the US Dollar Reserve Currency Strategy. These two strategies have worked in harmony because they fed off each other, each reinforcing the other. However, today the realities of debt saturation have brought the virtuous spiral to an end.

One of the two global strategies enabled the Asian Tigers to emerge and grow to the extent that they are now the manufacturing and potentially future economic engine of the world. The other allowed the US to live far beyond its means with massive fiscal deficits, chronic trade imbalances and more recently, current account imbalances. The US during this period has gone from being the richest country on the face of the globe to the biggest debtor nation in the world. First we need to explore each strategy, how they worked symbiotically, what has changed and then why the virtuous cycle is now accelerating into a vicious downward spiral.

ASIAN MERCANTILE STRATEGY

The Asian Mercantile Strategy started with the emergence of Japan in the early 1980s, expanded with the Asian Tigers in the 90s and then strategically dominated with China in the first decade of this century. Initially, Japan’s products were poor quality and limited to cheap consumer products. Japan as a nation had neither the raw materials, capital markets, nor domestic consumption market to compete with the giant size of the USA. To compensate for its disadvantages, Japan strategically targeted its manufacturing resources for the US market.  By doing this, the resource poor island nation took the first step in becoming an export economy – an economy centered on growth through exports versus an economy like the US, where an excessive 70% of GDP is dependent on domestic consumption.

The strategy began to work as Japan took full advantage of its labor differential that was critical in the low end consumer product segment, which it initially targeted. Gradually, as capital availability expanded, Japan broadened its manufacturing scope, moving into higher levels of consumption products requiring higher levels of quality and achieving brand recognition. Success soon became a problem as the Yen began to strengthen. To combat this the Japanese implemented the second critical component of what became the Asian Mercantile Strategy template. It began to manipulate its currency by aggressively intervening in the forex market to keep the yen weak.

Further success forced Japan to move to a more aggressive forex strategy to maintain a currency advantage. It was strategically decided that Japan’s large and growing foreign reserves were to be re-invested back into the US. By buying US Agency and US Treasury debt instruments it kept the dollar strong relative to the Yen. The more successful Japan became, the more critical this strategy became. In the 80s Japan dominated global expansion as it brought US automotive and consumer electronics’ manufacturing to its knees.

By the early 90s the Japanese labor advantage was quickly being lost to the Asian Tigers because the Yen versus the Asian Tiger currencies was too strong. The Asian Tigers were following the Japanese model. The Asian Crisis in 1997 re-enforced to all Asian players the importance of holding large US dollar denominated reserves. This further accelerated and reinforced the strategy of purchasing US Treasury and Agency debt. With China’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization (WTO),  China emerged on the scene in full force. Armed with the lessons of the last twenty years, China took the Asian Mercantile Strategy to another level in its ongoing evolution.

The results were one of the largest and fastest transfers of industrial power ever to occur in history.  In ten years, China assumed the role of the world’s undisputed industrial powerhouse in the world.

The virtuous cycle further accelerated as Asia became more dominant because its reserves, reinvested back in the US, began to have a larger and larger impact. The more Asia bought US Treasury and Agency debt, the lower US interest rates were forced, allowing Americans to finance more and more consumption. The more Asia bought US securities, the stronger the US dollar was against Asian currencies, and therefore the cheaper Asian products were relative to US manufactured products. It was a self reinforcing Virtuous Cycle. The result was a staggering 46,000 factories transferred from the US to Asia over the same ten year period. The transfer set the stage for chronic unemployment and public funding problems, but it was temporarily hidden by equally massive increases in debt spending.

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Don Coxe on everything from the markets rolling over, persistent food Inflation, the coming US Sovereign debt crunch

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by Don Coxe
Posted Zero Hedge
on June 5, 2011

Don Coxe’s (BMO Capital Markets) observations on sovereign risk moving from east to west, state finances, the ongoing correction in financial stocks which portends nothing good for the equity investors, the ongoing violence in MENA, why this inflationary spike in food may last far longer than previous ones, and naturally, some very spot on thoughts on gold, which conclude with: “The only gold bubble likely to burst is the bubbling ridicule of gold.”

Sovereign Risk Moves West

THE EUROZONE’S PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE ONLY existential challenge to the Capital Asset Pricing Model: the bonds at the very base of the risk-free classification in the Model – Treasurys – have come under critical concern since it began to appear that the record-breaking US fiscal deficits won’t be seriously addressed as long as investors can be found somewhere in the world prepared to buy Treasurys. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Treasurys.

When Obama’s State of the Union speech included no budget proposals apart from the hoary pledge to control costs and waste, and when the Obama budget that followed included no provisions for dealing with entitlement programs—and included higher pay increases for government employees than some analysts had expected, bond managers globally began voicing concern—and selling the dollar.

Fortunately, there was a buyer of first and last resort—QE2, as traditional buyers were gagging. China reduced its Treasury purchases, Bill Gross announced he was not just out of Treasurys—he was short—and then S&P announced that, if Washington didn’t do something soon about its multi-trillion-dollar deficits, the US would lose its AAA rating.

In one sense, a downgrade from S&P should be no problem for the USA: what credibility can one assign to such ratings? S&P and other ratings agencies happily assigned Treasury-equivalent ratings to more than a trillion dollars in putrescent derivatives issues masquerading as desirable mortgages. That the raters remain in business at all is a demonstration of Mr. Bumble’s expostulation, “The law is a ass!” Friendly judges have dismissed lawsuits against the rating agencies—who were paid far more than their services were worth for saying that the mortgage products they were examining were worth far more than they were worth.

The judges accepted the ratings agencies’ arguments that penalizing them for exercising their opinions would unconstitutionally penalize their right to free speech. It turns out that free speech that doesn’t come for free, but for fat fees, is as worthy of Constitutional protection as—we were going to say quoting the Bible in public, but that might get an American into real legal trouble these days. As a colleague remarked, “If a doctor sent you for an MRI, and it revealed four tumors, and he didn’t tell you, you or your heirs could successfully sue him. What’s the difference?”

So, according to a series of court decisions, demonstrating, on majestic scale, something between outright sloppiness and outright venality—that was a major contributor to the worst fi financial crash since the Depression—is protected behavior. Those who relied on those fee-for-service appraisals and then lost hundreds of billions go uncompensated. The investment banks who peddled the putrid products with the AAA ratings haven’t been forced to recompense their clients, the Congressmen who used their full power of office to force banks to make loans to borrowers who couldn’t service the debts haven’t been voted out of offi ce, and now the rating agencies have been given a pass by the courts.

So nobody—not bankers, not politicians, not raters—is legally to blame for the disaster which has already added more than $2.5 trillion to the national debtIf no Americans are to blame for a financially-caused global recession that began in the US, why should overseas investors trust the US to remain the world’s best credit?

We believe it highly probable that the US’s fiscal problems will not be seriously addressed for at least two years, and that Obama will be resoundingly re-elected in a campaign demonizing Republican budget proposals. All polls show that most Americans believe the deficits can be eliminated without any cuts in Social Security or Medicare.

We would expect that, in a year or less, long Treasurys will trade at higher yields than many high-grade corporate credits. In other words, we believe the Capital Asset Pricing Model is being driven into a ditch by reckless governments on both sides of the Atlantic, and that means endogenous risk within pension funds could be much higher than trustees realize.

Some thoughts on Gold

There is a new torrent of warnings of a “gold bubble”. We have been hearing that story from concerned clients, partly in response to George Soros’s highly-publicized liquidation of his holdings of the gold ETF: GLD. Another factor has been the debate about Barrick’s move into copper, which is being partially financed by a large bond issue. Despite Peter Munk’s passionate and articulate defense of that strategy at Barrick’s annual meeting, many observers seem to wonder whether this is a warning sign from the long-standing pre-eminent gold miner that gold’s future is problematic.

The financial press has been including many sneering observations that gold is a useless speculation on infl ation that is unlikely to occur. Why own an inflation hedge that pays no income? We dissent from that tiresome scorn: those trained in Keynesian economics about the “barbarous relic” never bother to reflect that Keynes expressed almost childlike faith that central banks, acting pursuant to the Bretton Woods agreement of which he was a major architect, would always exercise restraint in monetary policies that would make gold passé.  The Seventies proved him horribly, hopelessly wrong. But the Eighties and Nineties made it look as if he would ultimately be proved right.

However, the history of major monetary policies since then—and particularly since 2007—makes the case for gold appears as cogent as it was in the Seventies. This time, there’s no chance the Fed will drive interest rates to double-digit levels to fi ght infl ation and protect the dollar. It may be that, after years of getting by on Financial Heroin, the economy lacks the energy and élan vital to survive even normal interest rates—let alone Volcker rates.

As for the most basic argument—that gold is not an investment, because it pays no income—that seeming tautology is, at root, inherently false. Gold has always been an alternative currency. It is resuming that role as central banks switch from the sell to the buy side. A unit of paper currency pays no income. It can be exchanged for bonds, deposits or stocks that pay income, but a holder of a million euros or dollars in a safe deposit box earns no income on the hoard—just as a holder of a million dollars’ worth of gold earns no interest.

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Land of the Setting Sun

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by Jim Quinn
Originally posted March 28, 2011
(Apologies to Mr Quinn, his article is slightly condensed here.)

THE LINEAR THINKERS THAT DOMINATE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA and the halls of power in Washington D.C. are assessing the series of disasters in Japan without connecting the dots of history. Their ideological desire to convince people that things will go back to normal in short order flies in the face of the facts.

It makes me wonder whether these supposed thought leaders lack true intelligence or whether their ideological biases convince them to lie. At the end of the day it comes down to wealth, power and control. If those in power were to tell the truth about the true consequences of demographics, debt, disasters, and devaluation, their subjects would revolt and toss them out. Before the multiple disasters struck Japan last week, the sun was already setting on this empire. The recent tragic events will accelerate that descent.

Japanese Beetle Meet Windshield

Smart financial minds have been expecting a Japanese economic tsunami for the last few years. John Mauldin described Japan’s predicament in early 2010:

“I refer to Japan as a bug in search of a windshield. I am not so sure about the timing, however, as the economic and fiscal insanity that is Japan may be able to go on for longer than many think possible. But to me it is not a question of whether there will be a crisis, but when there will be one. This year? 2011? 2012? I doubt Japan makes it to the middle of the decade with a very serious and sad day of reckoning.”

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard expected a 9.0 debt earthquake to strike Japan in 2010:

“Weak sovereigns will buckle. The shocker will be Japan, our Weimar-in-waiting. This is the year when Tokyo finds it can no longer borrow at 1% from a captive bond market, and when it must foot the bill for all those fiscal packages that seemed such a good idea at the time. Every auction of JGBs will be a news event as the public debt punches above 225% of GDP. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii will become as familiar as a rock star.

Once the dam breaks, debt service costs will tear the budget to pieces. The Bank of Japan will pull the emergency lever on QE. The country will flip from deflation to incipient hyperinflation. The yen will fall out of bed, outdoing China’s yuan in the beggar-thy-neighbor race to the bottom.”

Mr. Pritchard was either wrong or early, depending upon your point of view.

Debt & Demographics

Japan is a one trick pony that just broke two legs and is waiting to be put down. They have experienced a two decade long recession. Their stock market is still 70% below its 1990 peak. They have no natural resources. They allow virtually no immigration. And their population is in a death spiral. The one and only thing they have going for them is their phenomenal ability to manufacture high quality products and export them to the rest of the world. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan severely damaged their ‘just in time’ manufacturing machine. A surging yen would destroy their export machine by making their products more expensive. Hundreds of high tech Toyota, Honda, and Sony factories are shut. Four hundred miles of ports and harbors have been wiped out. There are rolling blackouts, with one million households without electricity. Over 500,000 people are still homeless.

The short-term impact of this disaster will push Japan into recession. The rebuilding efforts over the coming years will create a positive GDP figure, but will not do anything to benefit Japan over the long haul. The billions designated to rebuild will be money not invested in a more beneficial manner. The linear thinkers conclude that over the long-term Japan will be OK. These people are ignoring the double D’s – Debt and Demographics. When Japan entered its two decades of recession and experienced the Kobe earthquake in 1995, its government debt stood at 52% of GDP. Today it stands at 225% of GDP.

Twenty one years ago, the Japanese population was still relatively young, with only 12% of the population over 65 years old. The population of Japan peaked in 2004 and now is in relentless decline. Over 23% of the population is over 65 and the median age is 45 years old. For comparison, the median age in the U.S. is 37 years old, with only 13% over 65. The population of Japan is aging rapidly and will decline by 4.4 million, or 3.5% in the next ten years.

The question I pose to the mainstream thinkers is, “How can a country with a rapidly aging population and nearly one quarter of its population over 65 years old generate the necessary dynamic enthusiasm for rebuilding a shattered country?” Youthful enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future is essential to any enormous rebuilding effort. Japan does not have it in them. News reports already indicate a lethargic and seemingly insufficient response by emergency workers. The devastation seems to have overwhelmed this aging country. The psychological impact of this type of natural disaster will likely have two phases. Psychology professor Magda Osman describes the expected human response:

“After a disaster, typically small communities become incredibly co-operative and pull together to help each other and start the rebuilding process. There’s an immediate response where people start to take control of the situation, begin to deal with it and assess and respond to the devastation around them. The problem is that we aren’t very good at calculating the long-term effects of disasters. After about two months of re-building and cleaning up we tend to experience a second major slump when we realize the full severity of the situation in the longer term. This is what we need to be wary of because this triggers severe depression.”

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Japan, the Persian Gulf and Energy

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By George Friedman
by permission of STRATFOR
Originally posted March 15, 2011

OVER THE PAST WEEK, EVERYTHING SEEMED TO CONVERGE ON ENERGY. The unrest in the Persian Gulf raised the specter of the disruption of oil supplies to the rest of the world, and an earthquake in Japan knocked out a string of nuclear reactors with potentially devastating effect. Japan depends on nuclear energy and it depends on the Persian Gulf, which is where it gets most of its oil. It was, therefore, a profoundly bad week for Japan, not only because of the extensive damage and human suffering but also because Japan was being shown that it can’t readily escape the realities of geography.

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, a bit behind China now. It is also the third-largest industrial economy, behind only the United States and China. Japan’s problem is that its enormous industrial plant is built in a country almost totally devoid of mineral resources. It must import virtually all of the metals and energy that it uses to manufacture industrial products. It maintains stockpiles, but should those stockpiles be depleted and no new imports arrive, Japan stops being an industrial power.

The Geography of Oil

There are multiple sources for many of the metals Japan imports, so that if supplies stop flowing from one place it can get them from other places. The geography of oil is more limited. In order to access the amount of oil Japan needs, the only place to get it is the Persian Gulf. There are other places to get some of what Japan needs, but it cannot do without the Persian Gulf for its oil.

This past week, we saw that this was a potentially vulnerable source. The unrest that swept the western littoral of the Arabian Peninsula and the ongoing tension between the Saudis and Iranians, as well as the tension between Iran and the United States, raised the possibility of disruptions. The geography of the Persian Gulf is extraordinary. It is a narrow body of water opening into a narrow channel through the Strait of Hormuz. Any diminution of the flow from any source in the region, let alone the complete closure of the Strait of Hormuz, would have profound implications for the global economy.

For Japan it could mean more than higher prices. It could mean being unable to secure the amount of oil needed at any price. The movement of tankers, the limits on port facilities and long-term contracts that commit oil to other places could make it impossible for Japan to physically secure the oil it needs to run its industrial plant. On an extended basis, this would draw down reserves and constrain Japan’s economy dramatically. And, obviously, when the world’s third-largest industrial plant drastically slows, the impact on the global supply chain is both dramatic and complex.

In 1973, the Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the world. Japan, entirely dependent on imported oil, was hit not only by high prices but also by the fact that it could not obtain enough fuel to keep going. While the embargo lasted only five months, the oil shock, as the Japanese called it, threatened Japan’s industrial capability and shocked it into remembering its vulnerability. Japan relied on the United States to guarantee its oil supplies. The realization that the United States couldn’t guarantee those supplies created a political crisis parallel to the economic one. It is one reason the Japanese are hypersensitive to events in the Persian Gulf and to the security of the supply lines running out of the region.

Regardless of other supplies, Japan will always import nearly 100 percent of its oil from other countries. If it cuts its consumption by 90 percent, it still imports nearly 100 percent of its oil. And to the extent that the Japanese economy requires oil — which it does — it is highly vulnerable to events in the Persian Gulf.

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Japan update: It’s much worse than it looks

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by madhedgefundtrader
Originally posted March 15, 2011

I just got off the phone with several frightened, somewhat dazed survivors of the Japanese earthquake who work in the financial markets, and I thought it important to immediately pass on what they said. Some were clearly terrified.

Japan’s economic outlook now appears far more dire than I anticipated only a day ago. It looks like GDP growth rate is going to instantly flip from +2% to -3%, a swing of -5%, similar to what we saw after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.  We have just had a “V” shaped economy dumped in our laps, and we have just embarked on a precipitous down leg. Two very weak quarters will be followed by two strong ones. The initial damage estimate is $60-$120 billion, and that will certainly rise.

Kobe had a larger immediate impact because of its key location as a choke point for the country’s rail and road transportation networks and ports. But the Sendai quake has affected a far larger area. Magnifying the impact is the partial melt down at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant, forcing the evacuation of everyone within a 12 mile radius.

Most major companies, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Sony have shut down all domestic production. Management want to tally death tolls, damage to plant and equipment, and conduct emergency safety reviews. In any case, most employees are unable to get to work because of the complete shutdown of the rail system. Tokyo’s subway system is closed, stranding 25 million residents there.

Electric power shortages are a huge problem. The country’s eight Northern prefectures are now subject to three hour daily black outs and power rationing, including Tokyo. That has closed all manufacturing activity in the most economically vital part of the country.

Panic buying has emptied out every store in the major cities of all food and bottled water. Gas stations were cleaned out of all supplies and reserves, since much of Japan’s refining capacity has been closed. There are 20,000 expatriates waiting at Tokyo’s Narita airport as foreign companies evacuate staff to nearby financial centers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Airlines are diverting aircraft and laying on extra flights to accommodate the traffic.

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