What's ahead for stocks: Japan and the Fed

The cost of rebuilding after Friday's earthquake and tsunami will start to come into focus; Japanese stocks plunge in Monday trading. Investors face a Federal Reserve meeting, key inflation reports and earnings from Nike and Ross Stores.

By Charley Blaine Mar 11, 2011 11:03PM

Charley BlaineUpdated: 3:30 a.m. ET Monday, March 14


If you're wondering how traders in U.S. markets viewed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it was this: clearly a terrible problem for the Japanese, but an opportunity for everyone else.

The earthquake and the tsunami that followed devastated the Japanese coastline northeast of Tokyo, with a death toll estimated at more than 10,000 and climbing. Railroads and highways, port facilities and power grids were a mess. Many manufacturers shut down their operations.


Japanese utility staff and authorities spent the weekend trying to contain the potential meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility in northeastern Japan. Early Monday Tokyo time, it wasn't clear exactly what the damage was to the reactors.


There is an assumption of a partial meltdown at one reactor, with problems growing at two more reactors, but the nuclear experts told CNN on Sunday that they believe the possibility of massive radiation exposure remains low -- at least for now. More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation, The Associated Press reported.

The immediate aftermath of the quake will be a slowdown of Japan's economy, the world's third-largest. Indeed, Japanese stocks dropped right from the open and never recovered. The Nikkei 225 Index ($JP:N225) fell 634 points, or 6.2%, to 9,640.29 in Monday trading, its biggest percentage loss since Dec. 2, 2008.  


Shares of Toyota Motor (TM) fell 7.9% in Tokyo, with electronic companies Hitachi off 16.2% and Toshiba off 16.3%. Tokyo Electric Power, the company that operates the troubled nuclear power facility, plunged  off 23.6%.


The Bank of Japan pumped $183 in liquidity into the nation's banking system so that Japan's financial system wouldn't seize up.


The dollar rose nearly 0.9% against the yen. The yen was quoted at 82.37 to the dollar early Monday.


The reconstruction that will come in Japan also means heavy spending to fix as much as possible and rebuild what can't be fixed. That's opportunity, and that's a big reason why the U.S. stock market rallied late Friday, with the Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) finishing with a 60-point gain on the day.


You could see that mentality at work with Caterpillar (CAT), whose shares dropped to $97.01 right after the open and jumped 3.6% to $100.50 before closing at $100.02. The gain was worth 12.3 points of the Dow's gain.


That mentality may offer U.S. markets a boost in the weeks ahead. Futures trading late Sunday, however, suggested U.S. stocks will open lower, with the Dow down at least 70 points. Light sweet crude oil, the benchmark U.S. crude, was trading at $99.48 a barrel at 3 a.m. Monday in electronic trading .


But investors will ponder other issues, including an important Federal Reserve meeting and a number of big inflation reports. Earnings are also due from Nike (NKE), Ross Stores (ROST) and and teen retailer Pacific Sunwear (PSUN).


U.S. stocks finished lower for the week, with the Dow down 1% and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) down 1.3%. The Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) dropped 2.5%. The Dow is up 4% for the year, with the S&P 500 up 3.7% and the Nasdaq up 2.4%.


A long, tough recovery ahead for Japan
The Japanese recovery may take some time to get started and longer to complete.


One problem, Nomura Securites noted Sunday, is that roads, bridges, power lines and the like were seriously damaged over a broad area. 


Second, the area affected by the Sendai earthquake has a large number of technology-related manufacturing facilities. It was unclear, however, how badly these were damaged and what shutdowns may do to supplies of flash-memory chips and other semiconductors used in smart phones and tablet devices.


Another: The government's deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is three times larger than the U.S. government deficit, according to the Visual Economics website. Plus, the Japanese economy has struggled in recent years. So how the recovery is financed may be tricky.


Despite the presence of technology companies in northeastern Japan, the regional economy still is heavily influenced by agriculture and lumber. The center of Japanese manufacturing is south of Tokyo. SanDisk (SBNK), which makes flash-memory chips, noted that its two joint venture plants, operated with Toshibia, are 500 miles from the quake's epicenter.

Plus, many Japanese manufacturers have shifted operations to other countries.

At the same time, Japan has experience recovering from big earthquakes. The January 1995 Kobe quake struck at the center of Japanese industry. The effect of the recovery effort on the Japanese economy was very positive and measurable within two months of the quake.

So, that means new demand for steel, aluminum, copper, wood, textiles, concrete and the like. Some of the demand will be met by domestic suppliers.

But it also may require outside suppliers. Like Caterpillar. Or General Electric (GE), up 1.3% to $20.38 on Friday. Or Siemens (SI), the German industrial giant, up 0.2% to $127.13 in New York. Or Jacobs Engineering (JEC), up 4.2% to $49.08. Or Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), which ships much of the copper ore from its giant mine in Indonesia to refineries in Japan. Its shares were up 3.5% to $49.48 on Friday.

And that's just a start.

There's an important offset to this bullish scenario: China.

Economic reports suggest the Chinese economy is losing some strength as the government tries to contain inflation. It ran a rare deficit in February, a major cause for Thursday's nasty U.S. sell-off. If that trend continues, the effects on the global economy and U.S. stocks will be much bigger.


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The Fed meets; time to pay attention
The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee meets on Tuesday. Don't expect the Fed to change interest rates. But it's time to pay close attention to what the Fed says about its $600 billion bond-buying plan.

The program is dubbed QE2, short for the second round of quantitative easing. The central bank started buying $600 billion of Treasury securities in a program set to end by June 30.

Reviled by conservative economists as inflationary, unsuccessful and worse, the QE2 program is praised by others as having kept interest rates relatively low and given the stock market a huge lift since August and helped the economy work through the soft patch created by the 2010 European debt crisis.

So what you want to hear from the Fed is how it plans to end the plan. If it's a very abrupt end, it could push interest rates higher, and there's a worry about how that might affect the economy.

Elsewhere in the economy
It's a big week for the economy. Here's a quick rundown.

Tuesday: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Empire State Manufacturing Survey and the National Association of Home Builders' March housing index.

Wednesday: Housing starts for February and the February producer price index (PPI). The latter will be watched closely because of the concern about rising energy and food costs.

Thursday: The consumer price index (CPI) for February plus industrial production and capacity utilization for February. Like the PPI, expect a startling headline number. The Conference Board will report on leading economic indicators. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's March manufacturing survey is also on tap. And, given the disappointment with this past week's report on jobless claims, Thursday's jobless claims report will get close attention.

Two analyst meetings
(CVX) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) will hold analyst meetings on Monday. The Chevron meeting will let analysts quiz the company on its economic outlook and its outlook for oil prices.

Hewlett-Packard's meeting may be contentious. Its last earnings report was a disappointment, and shares have fallen 14%. In addition, there's been criticism over how HP appointed five new directors in January. They include Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay (EBAY) and unsuccessful candidate for governor of California.

 A report by Institutional Shareholder Services said CEO Leo Apotheker played too much of a role in the selection of the directors. The corporate-governance advisory firm recommended a vote against three of the new directors at this year's annual meeting.

Earnings: Nike, Ross Stores, Pacific Sunwear
This is not a heavy week for earnings. There are several worth watching, including;

Pacific Sunwear reports after Tuesday's close. It's a big outdoor apparel retailer, and, as Rick Aristotle Munarriz noted on The Motley Fool this week, "PacSun has been an all-weather dud. You have to go back to the summer of 2008 to find the last time that it came through with a profitable quarter." The company is expected to report a loss of 32 cents a share for its fiscal fourth quarter. A year ago, it lost 26 cents a share.

After Thursday's close, Nike is expected to report fiscal-third-quarter earnings of $1.11 a share, up 9.9% from $1.01 a year ago. The key to Nike, however, is its future orders estimate. When it reported fiscal-second-quarter results on Dec. 21, it had $7.7 billion in futures orders due by the end of April, up 11% from a year ago.

Ross Stores is expected to report $1.37 a share in earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter, up 17.7% from a year ago for its fiscal third quarter. Revenue for the discount apparel retailer is expected to rise 7.1% to $2.12 billion. This is a company Wall Street likes. The stock is up 28.2% since Oct. 1. A reasonable question is if the shares are too pricey.
Mar 13, 2011 7:34PM
Active - I'm an advocate of reality and truth in everything. I don't advocate taking anything from anyone.  Likewise, I don't advocate giving anything to anyone that doesn't earn it unless there's plenty to spare. If I join a retirement program that advertises that it will pay me 7% return on the total principal I invest when I reach the age if 65 then that's a contract, plain and simple. So I and my employers pay in $250,000 over 45 years than I should get $17,500 a year; $1458 month. It doesn't matter if I'm destitute or a billionaire at 65, I get the $17,500/year.  Now, some do-gooder comes along and says, oh, this man died and left a widow and child with no income, let's see who can afford to contribute a little? Ok, let's take some from Havasu because he worked his butt off and has more than his "fair" share.  ****, nobody should have the right to steal from me what I earned. That's seizure of personal property that the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution was supposed to protect individuals from anybody; Capitalistic, Christian, Socialistic or whatever. I'm advocating giving to those that earn what's due them and if there isn't anymore to be had then life just isn't fair is it else this country is going to go bankrupt.  Same goes the other way.  If you sign a contract to purchase something and don't fulfill the terms of that contract then you lose whatever it was that you bought.  No if, buts or ands about it.  I'm not advocating class warfare downward or upward.  I'm advocating that government and individuals have a responsibility to fulfill their obligations before deciding to do anything beyond those obligations. Quit trying to figure out how much good you can do with other people's money.  We are out of other people's money.
Mar 14, 2011 1:51AM



hava, are you aware


that the SS system was developed as a means of providing a basic level of support to people in rather desperate straights, and that it was never intended to be a fully funded retirement system of any kind? 


a US worker must pay in SS taxes (called FICA) for forty calendar quarters over his working lifetime in order to qualify for SS?


so, please tell us how does someone who does not qualify for SS benefits then get those benefits anyway?  is this some top secret program? 

Mar 12, 2011 1:32PM
The insiders will win and everyone else will lose.....fixed system..for the wealthy to steal from the middle class...pension funds--401k's yes they take the money off the table when they want too..we all pay...trash,, to say the least..So the news does not matter only the greed....
Mar 12, 2011 8:11PM




Mar 13, 2011 6:38PM

Thinking  hava, can you elaborate a bit and tell us how you plan to squeeze blood from a turnip (the poor and lower middle class) by collecting more taxes from them, thus taking every dollar collected in tax out of the economy since they spend 100% of discretionary income (income after the many taxes they already pay) and still keep the US out of Great Depression II.


this should be interesting, like midas creating gold from iron. 

Mar 14, 2011 2:18AM

Smile Active, yes I'm very aware of what Social Security is and isn't. I'm also very aware of what they've advertised the benefits would be for the last 45 years while I've paid FICA taxes that have increased from 1% to the present 12.4%. Yes, I know it hasn't and isn't advertised as a full retirement system.  But it must pay what it was advertised to pay.  Why do some retirees get their benefits taxed and others don't?  A US worker has to pay FICA for 40 quarters to qualify for benefits relative to the taxes they paid in during those 40 quarters. Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (unfunded) were added to Social Security in 1956.  I did not say anyone was getting Social Security benefits that didn't deserve them. I did say that those that have paid for them are being threaten with reduced benefits because of other unfunded benefit programs. Medicaid is a perfect example.

Mar 13, 2011 11:45PM
The Fed buying bonds?  Isn't that like me buying something from my wife, and then she puts the money back into the same bank account that I took it from???   One part of the government prints money to buy something from another part of the government?  What kind of a financial system do we have?
Mar 13, 2011 9:14PM

Sad  firstly, like the post as you state your thoughts well.  but, well, yes, anytime someone states the obvious i am disappointed.  of course we accept believers in atheism, and all religions as a premise upon which our country was founded.


however, any basic research whatsoever will lead you to the facts of this matter: America was founded by Christians.  America was founded as a Christian nation.  The majority of American citizens are Christian.  The "coin of the realm" as it were says it best: In God We Trust (maybe you have been using only credit cards your entire life?). in our courts we swear on the Bible. our President is sworn in on the Bible.  in our civic organizations we say the Pledge of Allegiance. at our sporting events we sing a national anthem - the little known, but very powerful, fourth stanza of which underscores our trust in God.  these examples i am providing could go on for days as you well know.


there is a difference between the core religion of a nation and the allowance for others to have their own beliefs.  after all, there are indeed "many paths up the mountain" and the Bible tells us to love one another without specification of religious belief.


with all of that said, America is indeed a Christian Nation by a preponderance of the facts.  i will leave you with this, and why not take some time to sit back, close your eyes and hum a few bars?

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.    

Mar 14, 2011 12:25AM
havasu, I note you "advocate giving to those that earn what's due them and if there isn't anymore to be had then life just isn't fair". I get that, but almost every time I hear it (or see it) professed, its coming from some deep-seated resentment for this perceived army of lazy, non-working low-lifes, just sucking up government handouts. I don't see that, and besides, who decides what constitutes "due them"? Sure, there are skaters and gamers, but they're not just gaming the government, and they're not just low-income, aimless folks either.  They come from all levels and run costs up for us all. If you cut-off common benefits to the low-income folks, you are cutting off people who honestly couldn't earn due to unforeseen hardship, illness, age, etc.  I can't see hanging on to all my pennies while thumbing my nose at those at those who maybe weren't so fortunate with their health or luck.  Cheers.
Mar 13, 2011 5:56PM

Angry   in re: earlier noble socialist post:

In other words, i dont think Active will give 1 thin dime above gvt edict charity..

ancient asian philosopher once say: better to not post and be thought a fool, than to post and leave no doubt.


noble, you have no factual data or post history upon which to base such an erroneous, personal attack.  as a Christian soldier who tithes, your remark is both extremely insensitive and grossly inaccurate.




Mar 13, 2011 9:33PM

Hot good post dunn! commonly called "the market is climbing a wall of worry."  now THAT would be a nice trick and would finally convince us to move about $35mm off of the sidelines and into the market.


we'll see.  my inclination is that you left about another twenty or so risk factors off of your list!

Mar 13, 2011 7:09PM

1. nuclear plants ready to explode and destroy a nation

2. libya beating back the rebels from an oil town/ oil ports being bombed; rebels vow to retaliate

3. yemen/ bahrain and saudi's starting to make more noise about their leaders

4. inflation ready to kick butt thru higher fuel/ food prices due to higher oil price


only means one thing. market does better than it has in 3 years; dow up 500!

Mar 13, 2011 11:07PM
Hot Active - Life's not a bowl of Cherries, you have to take the Apples and Oranges with them.  Our form of government has to exist by honoring contracts with it's citizens who will respond by supporting reasonable progressive taxation. However, if the balance between Apples, Cherries and Oranges becomes unreasonable or unsustainable then the citizens will take back the power to govern and give it to those that will keep the Apple cart upright (pun intended).  We are currently experiencing such a shift because the balance has not been managed professionally. As we have agreed to in the past, the world shift in economic realities, globalization, is exacerbating the struggle to fulfill everyone's desire for the fruits of their labors or lack thereof.  It is what it is and everyone has to adapt. 
Mar 13, 2011 9:37PM
I call them midas. Whatever they touch turns to a muffler Open-mouthed

lmao - never heard that one before!  what a great line.  i will work that into my next conversation with a daughter of mine that has yet to see the light of hard work and perseverance.


learn something new everyday ....

Mar 13, 2011 8:27PM

Tongue out Not looking good Futures - DJIA -74 SP -8.40 NAS -18.25 on  3/13/2011 at 7pm

Mar 13, 2011 6:32PM

Disappointed  well, since you asked:


If government is PROVIDING charity, then why should one give more?

because we are a Christian country (indivisible, under God, In God We Trust, etc.) and because it is what the Good Book tells us to do.


wow. that was a real toughie.


p.s. nice stereotyping there. my county is largely republican/conservative and my township is about 80% republican/conservative.  i do tax returns from all across the state and the country.  the local charitable contribution rates are on par with those on a national basis.  hence your comment about who is more likely to give to charity is de-facto inaccurate. information a product of your environment, household, news sources, alien radio waves? 

Mar 13, 2011 11:01AM
Don't be a hater! Those companies here that rely on just in time shipments of components from Japan are going to have a rough time dealing with this disruption and that will affect their profitability so invest and plan accordingly. Live your life by minimizing your interaction with the government then. Personally, hiding in a trailer park and keeping your head down is not my style. To each his own.....
Mar 13, 2011 9:50PM

Thinking well hava i agree with about 90% of your post, and i admire your passion on contract law, but i cannot quite buy the mixture of apples and oranges when it comes to logical argument.


in your second post you gave a clear-cut example whereby you, your employer and the government made a qualified plan agreement, and of course that should be honored.  however, in your initial post you take exception to, and disparage, the concept of progressive taxation in America.


contract = apple   progressive taxation = orange


i personally never had a glass of apporange juice but i think it would be unpalatable.  try again, and let's stick to the orange (progressive taxation) you criticized in your original post. 

Mar 13, 2011 5:36AM

Why are we sending aid to Japan when our own country is in more debt than we will ever be able to repay? When our own country has starving people? When our own country has homeless people who freeze to death outside? When our own country's infrastructure is crumbling away? When our own country is having disasters of its own? I don't think we should send 1 penny to Japan. Let others help out for a while. Let US worry about our own problems for a while and get our own affairs in order. Do you think other countries will have any empathy for us during a major disaster? Do you think they will send us aid? Money? Food? Or will they decide to call our huge debt due and payable immediately in an attempt to destroy the dollar's value and end the dollar as the World Reserve Currency? Research the "secret meetings" held to end the value of the U.S. dollar. The U.S. was not invited. Oh, but Japan was apparently there. When those who want to freely send and spend feel the effect of inflation, and the government no longer takes care of you because it is too busy trying to save itself, then I bet those who want to open hearts and spread compassion to other countries will be singing a different song. We ALWAYS help others out, but more and more I noticed ... other people in other countries still hate us and America, no matter how much we help and open our hearts. It is our, the taxpayer's, money, not the government's money to send everywhere else. Print! Print! Print!... but eventually, we will have to pay up. Even though not many may comment about how they really feel because so far they are "getting by" and the economy is really not yet affecting them, I would believe that the majority does not want to send anything, not food, not money, not supplies, to any other country when we cannot even take care of our own people and our own backyards! I agree with some of the comments above ~~ if it makes you feel better and you want to help Japan, open your own checkbook. I will help ... by sending prayers. God bless America.

·         1

Mar 13, 2011 2:17PM
principal reductions “sounds like a welfare discussion, not a regulatory discussion. That’s not the appropriate role for attorneys general.”
Angry So now the bleeding heart liberals (socialists) want to nullify contract law and tell the banks that it's better to reduce principal than auction off the property that people can't afford to make payments on.  They also want to add "means testing" to determine how much of your social security benefits you get when you retire.  Next they'll add means testing to determine how much interest you receive from that 5% CD at your local bank. Well, I say let's add means testing to determine how much of our IRS taxes we pay next year to a government that's run by cheats and liars.  Oh, that's right we already have that is called progressive taxes; the more you need the less you pay.  Madoff's right the US Government is a Ponzi scheme.
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