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Japan Quake, Fed Rates and CPI: Advisor Briefing for the Week of March 14, 2011

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The impact of the devastating Japanese earthquake and resultant tsunami and damaged nuclear power plant will dominate the news this week, with Japanese, European and U.S. markets being given their first full days to respond to the events. The human toll is enormous, but in the aftermath there will be significant repercussions likely for the energy and insurance industries as well—one estimate provided Sunday by Boston-based AIR estimated insured property losses in Japan will range from $15 to $35 billion. The Nikkei stock index fell 6.2% on Monday, the biggest loss on the Japanese stock market since October 2008, on volume said to be the greatest in over 60 years, while crude oil fell and the yen strengthened against the dollar as the Bank of Japan injected cash into the system and eased monetary policy.

The U.S. central bank meets on Tuesday as the FOMC holds its monthly policy meeting, while major economic reports include the producer price index (PPI) and the consumer price index (CPI). In Washington, the latest continuing resolution to fund the government expires on Thursday, while multiple hearings are due in Congress on topics ranging from housing finance and health care reform to oversight of the CFPB.

On Monday, March 14, the U.S. markets will get their chance to respond to the Japanese earthquake, following a steep decline in the Nikkei on Monday, with nuclear-power-related companies seeing steep declines along with Japan’s major auto manufacturers. European markets were down slightly in early trading, with insurers and reinsurers feeling the pain, along with stocks of nuclear power companies.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging holds a roundtable on assisted living.

On Tuesday, March 15, comes the Federal Reserve’s monthly FOMC meeting in Washington. On Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking Committee welcomes Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to a hearing on housing finance, while the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on TARP and Financial Services meets to discuss the status of state and municipal debt. The Labor Dept. releases U.S. import and export prices for February.

Wednesday, March 16, brings release of the weekly EIA Status Report on oil, while the House Financial Services Committee’s subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit holds a hearing featuring Elizabeth Warren on oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB). The Senate Finance Committee considers the state of health care reform a year after passage of President Obama’s landmark reform bill. The Senate Special Committee on Aging holds a hearing titled "Securities Lending in Retirement Plans: Why the Banks Win, Even When You Lose.".

Economic reports include the producer price index (PPI) for February and housing starts for February.

A government shutdown has been avoided, at least for a few more weeks. The continuing resolution (CR) funding the government that was to have run out on Thursday, March 17 (with luck the Guinness won’t run out that day) has now been extended to April 8. Economic reports due to be released on Thursday include weekly first-time jobless claims, along with the consumer price index (CPI) for February,  leading economic indicators from the Conference Board and industrial production and capacity from the Federal Reserve.

The business week ends on Friday, March 18, which, since it is the third Friday of the month, means it’s a quadruple witching day on which stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and individual stock futures all expire.


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