The Bank of Japan pumped $183 billion in yen yesterday to try and contain the damage to the Japanese economy and stock market. It didn't work. The Nikkei dropped over 1,000 points in Tuesday trading, better than 10%. That's after a 5% drop Monday.
That qualifies as a crash. And it's no "flash crash," either.
I can't say this comes as a surprise, exactly. As if the earthquake/tsunamis and the ensuing death toll weren't bad enough, Japan's nuclear crisis is turning a bad situation into a panic. And to top it off, Japan is still having aftershocks from the earthquake.
The radiation released from damaged nuclear plants is being called worse than Three Mile Island, but nowhere near as bad as Chernobyl.
The U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds are ramping today. Oil prices are falling below $100. But what's particularly interesting is that safe haven assets like gold and silver are also selling off. This is the situation I discussed on Friday, where investors are selling and going to cash. The S&P 500 is now approaching the support level of 1,250 we discussed yesterday.
For investors, this is not the time to panic. Yes, U.S. stocks are getting creamed. And we'll probably see incrementally slower GDP growth as a result of Japan's tragedy. But, ultimately, the U.S. stock market is working off its oversold status. And it's doing it quickly. We will see a good buying opportunity here, probably soon.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) have closed dozens of plants. As much as 20% of Japan's steel capacity may be offline. And Japan's semiconductor industry is also experiencing shutdowns.
Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) has a damaged chip plant in Japan and may lose $150-400 million in revenue. Other chip companies that may be affected are On Semiconductor (NASDAQ:ONNN), Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX), Maxim (NASDAQ:MXIM), Altera (NASDAQ:ALTR), Analog Devices (NASDAQ:ADI) and Linear Tech (NASDAQ:LLTC).
Flash memory is one area to watch. Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) makes around 30% of the world's flash memory, and has one factory damaged. NAND flash memory prices are up around 25% this week. DRAM flash prices are up around 10%
Overall, Japan makes 20% of global semiconductors, and 40% of flash.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is off 3% because of the flash memory supply issues. That could certainly be worse.
Uranium stocks are also getting killed, as investors assume that nuclear policy around the world will be in question.
Solar stocks area rallying on the assumption that solar will be an alternative to nuclear. Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) may be one to watch.
Again, as investors, let's not panic. Yes, stocks are selling off hard today. But let's keep an eye on S&P 500 support at 1,250. Let’s also keep an eye on gold and silver. Precious metals may be our first indication when cash starts returning to assets.