Markets News Afternoon: Powerful earthquake strikes central Japan Tuesday night; Shares slide in US and Europe
By Finfacts Team
Mar 15, 2011 - 4:27 PM

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NHK Television is reporting that a powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 on the Richter Scale jolted central Japan on Tuesday night.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the quake with an intensity of 6 plus on the Japanese seismic scale zero to 7 hit at 10:31 PM.

The focus of the quake is in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture and is estimated to be at a depth of 10 kilometers.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Nikkei 225 tumbled 10.5% and shares in Europe and Asia have also plunged.


OECD Statement on Japan: Japan: Economic impact of the earthquake

The 11 March 2011 Tohoku Pacific earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in Japan and triggered the country’s worst disaster of the post-war era. We express our deep regret at the loss of life and offer our condolences to those affected by this tragedy.

The four prefectures most affected by the earthquake (Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki) account for 6 to 7% of Japan’s population and economic output. The destruction caused by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami is so large that it is not possible at this point to estimate its economic impact. Such disasters reduce potential growth through damage to tangible fixed assets and injury and loss of life. The 1995 Kobe earthquake, for example, resulted in damage estimated at around 2% of GDP. The area hit by the Kobe earthquake, as a share of GDP, was roughly comparable to the area devastated by the Tohoku Pacific earthquake. Nevertheless, the impact of the 11 March disaster may be much worse, given the greater severity of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Moreover, a series of aftershocks continues to shake Japan.

In particular, the earthquake and tsunami seriously damaged nuclear power plants in the Tohoku region, which depends heavily on such plants for electricity. Measures to contain overheating at some reactors may render them unusable. An estimated one-fifth of Japan’s domestic nuclear capacity has been closed at least temporarily since the earthquake, resulting in electricity shortages. The authorities plan rolling blackouts in the eastern half of Honshu for at least several weeks beginning 14 March.

Power shortages and the need to repair the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami has forced many factories to suspend production, including in the car and electric equipment sectors. The adverse effects in areas hit by the disaster may spread to other areas of the country and overseas due to shortages of parts. Consequently, industrial production in March is likely to fall, followed by further weakness in April.

The Tohoku Pacific earthquake occurred as the Japanese economy appeared to be emerging from a lull in the latter part of 2010. While disasters reduce economic activity in the short run, subsequent reconstruction efforts tend to boost output growth. The government has started discussions on reconstruction measures. At present, fiscal resources appear limited to the remaining 0.2 trillion yen (0.04% of GDP) reserve fund in the FY 2010 budget and the 1.1 trillion yen (0.2%) reserve in the FY 2011 budget. However, supplementary budgets to finance reconstruction efforts will expand available fiscal resources. In the wake of the Kobe earthquake, for example, the central government spent about 5 trillion yen (1.0% of 1995 GDP).

At its 14 March meeting, the Bank of Japan’s Monetary Policy Board decided to double the size of the asset purchase programme, originally introduced in October 2010, from 5 trillion yen to 10 trillion yen (2% of GDP), while providing ample liquidity. The central bank is also monitoring the impact of the earthquake on financial markets and financial institutions. Equity prices have fallen sharply since 11 March, with the benchmark Nikkei average down by 16%. Sales by foreigners may have helped reverse initial upward pressure on the yen, perhaps reflecting the repatriation of overseas assets by Japanese insurers.

The OECD will be working closely with the Japanese authorities in the coming months and is ready to assist them in any way we can at this difficult time, including by helping them assess the impact of the tragedy on the economy and determine the necessary policy responses.

Buildings are reported to be shaking in Tokyo after a new 6.2 magnitude earthquake hits the country, with CNBC's Sri Jegarajah:

EU: The Austrian Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister today called on the Irish Government to offer a gesture for securing a lower interest rate on the EU-IMF bail-out.

"If Ireland wants to change what we have already adopted, on the interest rates for example, it's up to the new government to make a new proposal," Josef Pröll said following the Ecofin meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

"They can send a signal to Europe, like the Greek government for example. They've got a longer time to pay the loan back, but on the other hand they proposed to privatise a lot of enterprises worth €50bn," he said.

Spain today sold €5.5bn worth of bonds in an auction of 12 and 18-month bills today, following last week's downgrade by Moody's Investors Service.

Spain's Treasury said it sold €3.97bn in 12-month bills at an average yield  of 2.128%, down from 2.41% in mid February. It also sold €1.53bn in 18-month bills at an average yield of 2.436%, down from 2.938% in the last such auction in February.

Murray Jennex, associate professor at San Diego State University, assesses the gravity of the current radiation levels in Japan:

Irish Life & Permanent: IL&P issued a statement to the Stock Exchange today confirming the receipt of Irish Nationwide deposits of approximately:

  • Irish Retail deposits of €2.7bn;
  • Irish Corporate deposits of €0.5bn; and
  • Isle of Man deposits of €0.4bn.

IL&P also received assets supporting these deposits which comprise:

  • Senior NAMA bonds with a nominal value of €2.9bn; and
  • Irish Government and Irish financial institutions Government guaranteed bonds with a nominal value of approximately €0.7bn.

Consideration paid by the group in respect of the rransfer is approximately €2.3m.

Under the transfer 237 employees of INBS have transferred to the Group with the selected INBS deposits. No branches of INBS were acquired.

The acquisition by the group of the selected deposits and associated assets of INBS improves the loan to deposit ratio and liquidity position. As of 31 December 2010 the loan to deposit ratio of the banking business was 249%. The addition of €3.6bn of deposits at that date would have reduced the loan to deposit ratio to approximately 200%. Total depositors acquired is approximately 160,000.

AIB: Allied Irish Banks said today that  rates for new residential owner occupier and buy-to-let mortgages will rise from close of business today.

The changes are as follows:

Owner Occupier
Residential Buy-to-let
Rate category Old rate New rate Rate category Old rate New rate
Fixed rates Fixed rates
1 Year 3.59% 4.15% 1 Year 4.59% 5.15%
2 Year 3.69% 4.65% 2 Year 4.69% 5.65%
3 Year 3.89% 4.88% 3 Year 4.89% 5.88%
4 Year 4.19% 5.15% 4 Year 5.19% 6.15%
5 Year 4.39% 5.35% 5 Year 5.39% 6.35%

US Markets

In New York Tuesday, the Dow fell 201 points or 1.68% to 11,792.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.63% and the Nasdaq dipped 1.67%.

Live US Indices

European Markets

The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 fell 2.03% Tuesday.

In Dublin the ISEQ has dipped 2.24%.

CRH which accounts for about 27% of the Dublin market's capitalisation, is down 2.28%; Elan has slid 3.11%; IL&P has slid 11%

European benchmarks

Irish share prices

Euribor Interest Rates


Crude oil for April delivery is currently trading on the Chicago York Mercantile Exchange (CME/Nymex) at $98.97 per barrel down $2.22 from Monday's close. In London, Brent for April is trading on the International Commodities Exchange at $110.77.


The euro is trading at $1.3976 and at £0.8688.


Gold is trading at $1,394.80 per oz in New York.

The Finfacts Gold Page

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