japan earthquake

Photo: ap

Everyone expected today to be huge. It was, but in a totally unexpected way:But first, the scoreboard:

Dow: +58.80
NASDAQ: +14.40
S&P 500: +9.10

  • The big story of the day was obviously the horrendous disaster in Japan more on that below.
  • The day really started yesterday before the US market close, when reports hit the wires that shots were fired at a protest in Saudi Arabia. It was already a weak day, but this really hit stocks, and sent oil spiking. It seemed, perhaps, that the “Day Of Rage” scheduled for today might turn into something real and destabilizing.
  • In the early going in Asia, it was fairly quiet. At night, China reported hot inflation data, and the PBOC made fresh noises about globalizing the yuan.
  • Then in the very early hours of the US morning (or late day in Japan), Japan was struck by a massive earthquake that was at least an 8.9 on the richter scale. That set off a massive tsunami in Japan. Warnings were launched for the entire Pacific, including Hawaii, parts of South America, and the entire US West Coast.
  • The markets reacted decisively. The Nikkei got slammed. Oil tanked. The yen went crazy, as companies will be forced to raise cash. Pretty much all commodities sold off. US futures dived. Anyone associated with re-insurance saw their shares get clubbed.
  • In the very early going, it was looking to be another ugly day for the US market. But US stocks got a huge boost from the fact that yesterday’s huge fear — the Saudi “Day Of Rage” — was a total flop. Apparently nobody turned up to protest in Riyadh. There were some very tiny-sounding demonstrations in the rest of the country.
  • The allowed oil to continue sinking — below $100 at one point — and after flipping back and forth for a while, stocks began a solid ascent (the Yen was a total monster, and despite hype about fiscal problems for the Japanese government, JGBs rallied).
  • There wasn’t too much economic news in the US, although consumer confidence missed big.
  • Throughout the day, seismic activity in Japan dominated the news. There was aftershock after aftershock all through the Japanese night. An ongoing situation is a cooler malfunction at a Japanese nuclear plant, which at one point required US jets to send coolant. The situation does not yet appear to be resolved. Follow it here for the latest >
  • No amount of ugly news, however, could shake US stocks. Meanwhile, the US dollar got hammered and the euro rallied strongly on word of an accord among heads of Europe. A tweet from Herman van Rompuy announced an agreement, but then he deleted it, saying that the accord was only an agreement in principle.
  • The big corporate event of the day was Apple’s release of the iPad 2, which technically will happen at 5.
  • For some comic-relief, at the end of the day, Saudi Prince and big-time investor Saudi Prince Alwaleed was on CNBC saying the “Day of Rage was a joke, and that it should have been named “Day of love for the King.” He’s also still long Citigroup.
  • Click here for remarkable images from Japan >

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