Global market confidence despite civil strife and devastation in parts of Japan
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Middle East and North Africa remains volatile and the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and violent tsunami in Japan caused enormous loss of life and the nuclear crisis at the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima is still unresolved. Added to this you have major tensions in the Ivory Coast, events in Southern Sudan do not bode well and piracy is still a major concern near Somalia.
Also, while recent news is focused on Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia in North Africa and on Bahrain and Yemen in the Middle East; it is clear that convulsions could erupt in other nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran remains divided because the opposition is clearly against the current government of Iran. It is also possible that these political shockwaves could spread further and many nations remain jittery at the moment because political convulsions can either die quickly or open up a can of worms therefore 2011 is clearly chaotic.
Despite this, you have clear signs that the global economy is about to pick up and while recent events have been dramatic and led to countless carnage and political changes; some form of normality appears to be returning to the global market and confident is returning.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is forecasting global economic growth this year of 4.8% and JP Morgan is estimating growth to be 4.4%, therefore, both are optimistic of a stronger global economy this year.
China, Germany, the United States, and other major players, are showing signs that manufacturing is picking up and market confidence is growing on this news.
Therefore, despite all the political chaos, devastating earthquake in Japan, and increasing price of oil and high commodity prices; the manufacturing base of many leading nations is rebounding.
The Institute for Supply Management in America stated that the factory index in February showed strong growth because the index rose by 61.4% and this is the highest rating since May in 2004. At the same time Europe is showing signs of a recovery because Europe’s service and manufacturing industries are expanding and this is being led by Germany.
It also appears that the worst fears of the economic crisis in Greece did not cause the damage that many had feared. Therefore, the banking system in Europe is looking much stronger in 2011 despite internal problems in some European Union member states.
Marc Gross who works at RS Investments in New York commented that “I am not sure if risk is all the way back on to where it was, but the market seems much happier and healthier after a short-term panic attack last week.”
The U.S. Treasury Department which began buying mortgage-backed-securities after intervening in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also announced that it will begin selling up to $10 billion a month in order to wind down the $142 billion which are currently held. At the height of the 2008 economic crisis in America the government bailed out many financial institutions but now you have renewed confidence.
Jason Pride at Glenmede which is based in Philadelphia commented that “We have a growth economy that seems like it is moving faster than it was six months ago” and “Everything’s pointing in the direction of an economic expansion. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s moving the right way.”
The Japanese stock market also rebounded on March 22 because after the initial shock of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis; it appears that state intervention by Japan and global market confidence is helping this rebound despite major uncertainty in Japan.
Mark Skidmore, who is a professor at Michigan State University in America, comments that “As incomes rise in a society, you can devote more resources to safety. So economies that have relatively high exposure to earthquakes or hurricanes start taking the precautions they need. Japan is among the best prepared in the world because they have high exposure and high income.”
The Kobe earthquake in 1995 created mass devastation and over 6,000 people died and unlike the regions of Iwate and Miyagi, the city of Kobe is more instrumental for trade and at the time the port was the sixth largest in the world. However, Kobe rebounded quickly and was redeveloped rapidly and Japan showed reasonable economic growth despite the 1990s on the whole being negative.
Mark Skidmore also comments about this and he stated that “We don’t know yet how devastating this is going to be economically, or even in terms of human casualties, but Kobe was able to rebound very quickly and I think there is the same potential here.”
It must be stated that unlike Kobe which was devastated by an earthquake and where the area of land covered was much smaller; the same situation is very different because the March 11 earthquake which struck recently was multi-dimensional. This applies to this disaster being based on the initial earthquake, the resulting tsunami, and then the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.
Also, whole communities have been destroyed along the coast of northeastern Japan and Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have been severely damaged. Another major difference is the significance of energy in this area and the fear of radiation is an unknown quantity. Therefore, the fisheries sector and farming sector is going to suffer in this part of Japan and the radiation issue is going to remain for some time.
Despite this, it is apparent that global market confidence is growing and some benchmarks are positive. Yet major convulsions may still put fresh breaks on the global economy but for now it appears that dramatic political changes and the devastation of the earthquake in Japan can not dampen enthusiasm.
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