Insurers Hit Hard, but Yen Rebounds After Japan Quake

by: Market Blog

Japan's biggest earthquake in 140 years has pushed global stocks and commodities markets lower. But guess what's up? The yen.

The Japanese currency took a brief dip but then quickly turned higher against all 16 of its major counterparts. The reason? It still has safe-haven status, and there is speculation that overseas Japanese are repatriating large amounts of the currency.

The Bank of Japan has also promised to do its utmost to support the financial markets. That could spark inflation -- which, in Japan, could actually be a healthy outcome.

The yen appreciated 0.9 percent to 82.23 per U.S. dollar, and jumped as much as 1.1 percent, the most since Feb. 24. It earlier fell as much as 0.4 percent to 83.30, its weakest since Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, the stock market has already earmarked the potential losers from the earthquake: the world's biggest reinsurance companies. Swiss Re (SWCEY.PK), Munich Re and Hannover Re fell 4.8 to 5.5 percent each. Japan is one of Swiss Re's biggest markets.

The companies issue backup insurance to primary insurers so that the system can cover large losses from disasters. The impact on the companies depends on many factors, such as how much of the damage was insured by them and how much they charged for coverage.

Hannover Re already said last week it expected to pay out $207-million (U.S.) for the earthquake that hit New Zealand.

Reuters has compiled a table of damage to companies within Japan. Here are some of the larger ones, listed in alphabetical order:

Bridgestone Corp. (OTCPK:BRDCY)

- No big damage to all factories so far.

Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ)

- No damage to facilities or big injuries.

Fujitsu Ltd. (OTCPK:FJTSY)

- Damage to some facilities but nothing serious. No casualties.

Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC)

- A 43-year-old male employee dies at Honda R&D Centre in Tochigi prefecture after wall collapses in cantine. In other Tochigi facilities, including other R&D sites and engine parts/transmission factory, walls and ceilings damaged, injuring 30-some employees.

- Sayama, Tochigi and Hamamatsu factories halted production.

- Suzuka factory in central Japan temporarily halted but restarted.

Nissan Motor Co. (OTCPK:NSANY)

- Production halted at all four car assembly factories in Japan, including those in severely hit Tochigi and Fukushima prefectures. Small fires confirmed at those two factories. Two suffered minor injuries at Tochigi factory.

Panasonic Corp. (PC)

- Two factories in Fukushima, producing audio products and digital cameras, one in Miyagi prefecture (Sendai) producing camera lenses.

Sapporo Breweries Ltd. (OTC:SOOBF)

- Little damage to Sendai factory. Products damaged. Production halted in Sendai and Chiba factories due to power outage.

Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE)

- Six factories, (two in Fukushima, four in Miyagi), all halted and most employees evacuated. One Miyagi factory makes semiconductors, the other three make optical film and various other parts. The two Fukushima factories make batteries.

- Floor of chemical products factory in Miyagi flooded and about 1,000 employees taking refuge on second floor.

Sumitomo Metal Industries. (OTC:SMMLY)

- Suspends operations at two blast furnaces at Kashima plant, in Ibaraki prefecture. No injuries reported.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (OTCPK:TKECF)

- Three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant automatically shut. Cooling systems attached to reactors also down, but does not necessarily result in radioactive leakage. Monitoring shows no radioactive leakage.

Tokyo Gas Co. (OTCPK:TKGSY)

- Stopped gas supply to more than 35,000 households and facilities in Kanto area in eastern Japan.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM)

- Subsidiary Central Motor Co: Miyagi prefecture, near Sendai. Started production in January 2011, builds Yaris subcompact sedan. Capacity: 120,000 units a year.

- Subsidiary Kanto Auto Works: Iwate prefecture. Builds smaller cars such as Belta sedan, Auris, Blade, ist.

- Joint venture with Panasonic Corp , Prime Earth EV Energy, in Miyagi prefecture. Makes batteries for hybrid cars. Production suspended.

- Toyota Motor Tohoku car parts factory. Operations started in Oct 1998. Production stopped, no injuries.

Disclosure: None