The financial damages will be enormous: Goldman Sachs puts the losses in buildings and production facilities at 16 trillion yen, or $193 billion, some 3.3% of the country's gross domestic product. In coming months, power shortages and supply-chain problems will slash the country's production of cars, electronics, machinery and other goods. The hit to tourism could last even longer.
Yet the overall cost to Japan's growth, measured in GDP, should be minimal. As with past disasters such as the Kobe earthquake in 1995, a massive reconstruction effort will later push up spending on buildings, factories and even furniture and home appliances lost in the rubble, all of which could offset a slowdown in output.
"We expect by the fourth quarter, Japan will be on a clear economic recovery track," says Tomo Kinoshita, deputy head of Asian economics at Nomura. The Japanese bank has revised down its 2011 GDP forecast for the country by a mere 0.4 percentage points to 0.9%.
For the rest of the world, a loss like that amounts to a rounding error. Bank of America Merrill Lynch figures even no growth at all in Japan this year would knock only a tenth of a percentage point off global GDP growth, to 4.2%. A shift in manufacturing and tourism away from Japan could benefit its neighbors, too. Taiwan hotel shares rose Friday in expectation that evacuees and travelers from nearby Japan would provide a new source of business. A shortage of Hondas for sale could prompt more people to buy Hyundais.
There are still many unknowns as to how this will affect the anime industry. Already we have central banks trying to stabilize the USD/JPY exchange rate, an important dynamic for the anime industry in both the U.S. and Japan. While things are stabalzing at the nuclear plant the fears (not to mention economic impacts) could linger for years.
It looks like we will get a better handle on the economic impacts in about 3-6 months.