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Published: Tuesday 15 October, 2013

online shopping bags online shopping bags ?stocks fall on fears of nuclear disaster in Japan

The Standard Poors 500 was off 2 percent for the day and is now down slightly for the year. Its gyrations followed the news from Japan, rising on a report that an emergency power line to one nuclear plant was nearly complete and falling when it was reported that pools of used nuclear fuel were compromised. housing starts.

Investors sold stocks and other risky investments and pushed money into Treasury bonds, viewed as a haven on fears that Japanese officials will not be able to contain the damage and prevent meltdowns at the nuclear reactors.

As Japan begins the complex and costly job of rebuilding the areas of the coun online shopping bags try that were destroyed, the task will be made more difficult by the governments vast debt.

Japan has the highest level of debt relative to the size of its economy of any major industrial nation 234 percent of gross domestic product this year, the International Monetary Fund estimates, compared with 99 percent for the United States. With the cost of rebuilding devastated areas expected to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, that debt level is likely to grow in the years ahead.

There are lessons for the United States. Even when borrowing rates are low, as they are for the United States and Japan, running high budget deficits can leave a country with less flexibility to respond to a disaster or an economic setback.

When you have as much debt as the Japanese have, youre vulnerable to this kind of shock and cant do much about it, said Carmen Reinhart, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics whose research shows that financial crises frequently lead to high debt burdens, which in turn cause other problems.

Borrowing money to rebuild after a disaster is a productive use of debt, most economists say. It is likely to have a high economic payoff and is a onetime expense. But because of its already high debt levels, the Japanese government may be forced instead to raise taxes or cut other spending to pay for the reconstruction, further damaging Japans weak economy. Treasury bonds. In theory, Japan maintains those reserves so it is prepared for an economic emergency, which surely this is.

The Japanese government, despite its hefty debt, has among the lowest costs to borrow money of any country or company on the planet, because Japanese citizens have traditionally put their savings into government bonds. That practice hasnt changed in the aftermath of the devastation: The interest rate the Japanese pay to borrow money for 10 years on the bond market was 1.22 percent Wednesday, down from 1.3 percent before the earthquake and tsunami. government pays 3.2 percent to borrow money for the same span.

However, although those low rates for Japanese bonds make the debt load manageable for now, demographic shifts will make for fewer domestic buyers of these bonds in the future, perhaps a decade from now. And given the immense size of the debt, even slight increases in interest rates could prove catastrophic for the nation.

One wrinkle is that the Bank of Japan, the nations central bank, has been expanding its purchases of a wide variety of assets, including Japanese government bonds, as part of a longstanding effort to prop up the economy, which has been largely stagnant for two decades. Those bond purchases by the central bank could help reduce some of the upward pressure on interest rates.

The Bank of Japan acted very quickly online shopping bags doubling the maximum s online shopping bags ize of its current assetpurchase program, said Andreas Utermann, chief investment officer of RCM, an assetmanagement firm. These steps are turning the already supportive monetary policy in Japan even more expansive, which should support the ability to recover from the earthquake shock. online shopping bags