x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

An ill wind blows good for some

The threat of nuclear meltdown is the rogue element threatening to undermine the recovery in the country best equipped to cope with a tsunami.

There are very few one-way bets in life, particularly since England's cricketers finally won back the Ashes in 2005 after 16 years and the US lost the America's Cup after retaining it for 130 years. But hedge fund managers around the world must have enjoyed a pleasant weekend, salivating at the prospect of the opening of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

It wouldn't have taken a financial genius of Warren Buffett proportions to figure out the market might be rather depressed after the country's worst natural disaster in living memory. Pictures from the worst affected areas reveal a sorry story, with whole towns razed to the ground. But one man's misery is another's moment: house prices in Greenwich, Connecticut, and London's Mayfair, the two main clusters where fund managers live, will probably rise in value once it is bonus time again. This is in sharp contrast to the Nikkei 225 share index, which plunged by 16 per cent over the past two days, its biggest decline since the 1987 crash.

Of course this is all part of the cut and thrust of financial markets, with every price drop somebody else's buying opportunity. One of the few buyers over the past few days was the Bank of Japan, which responded by snapping up more than US$244 billion (Dh896.23bn) of Japanese bonds.

Japan's leaders have tried to calm the markets, even as Naoto Kan, the prime minister, warned of increasing radioactivity levels from the Fukushima nuclear plant, something that is helping to stoke the concerns.

"Japan's production and the economic power have not fallen," said Kaoru Yosano, the economics minister. "I think the market confusion will calm down in a short time."

That may be wishful thinking, rather like hoping the plutonium rods don't overheat. The threat of nuclear meltdown is the rogue element threatening to undermine the recovery in the country best equipped to cope with a tsunami. French authorities are warning a radioactive wind could reach Tokyo, while wine producers in California are fearing if the wind blows in the opposite direction, it could affect their crops.

The biggest winner from this appears to be gas-producing countries such as Qatar, Indonesia and Australia, as Japan is a big importer of liquefied natural gas, along with hedge fund managers and food producers in parts of the world where a breeze from Japan can't reach them.

 

rwright@thenational.ae