After an initial selloff on heavy volume, markets quickly stabilized. While the S&P 500 is down 1.8 percent, it has recovered over a quarter of its losses.
What side of the argument are you on? Citigroup, in a report this morning, expressed the consensus in the trading community: "Assuming the nuclear fallout is contained, growth fears in Asia may be overdone."
The issue, of course, is that the nuclear fallout may not be contained. Other analysts have noted that the trade winds in Japan usually blow from the east to the south-southwest; in the event of a large-scale release of radioactivity, that would would bring clouds of radioactive particles over Japan and toward Korea.
Comparisons to the Kobe quake in 1994, which had a huge price tag (north of $100 billion) may or may not be accurate. Kobe did not involve a nuclear disaster; this may.
If the nuclear reactors are quickly shut down and safely contained, trader attention will quickly turn to recovery and the winners and losers. Then you will hear more about humanitarian relief efforts, and cement, steel, and power generation will be on everyone's mind.
One trader on the NYSE floor told me what was needed in Japan: "They need to bring in Rudy Giuliani so he can explain to the world exactly what has happened; the Japanese leadership has not."
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