Global markets rebounded Friday at the end of a brutal week as anxiety about the Japanese nuclear crisis subsided, at least temporarily.
With efforts to cool spent fuel rods continuing at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the Nikkei 225 managed to register a 2.7 percent increase Friday to 9,206.75, fixing its decline for one of the most agonizing weeks in Japanese history at 10.2 percent after it had sunk as low as 19.8 percent on Tuesday. The Nikkei is now down an even 10 percent since the start of the year.
Japanese markets will get a break today as the country marks the spring equinox with a bank holiday.
While their declines weren’t as severe as those of the Nikkei, none of the major world markets escaped the effects of Japan’s combination earthquake and tsunami followed by the nuclear emergency. In neighboring Hong Kong, even as fears of radiation exposure heightened, the Hang Seng Index was up 0.1 percent on Friday but down 4.1 percent for the week to 22,300.23, while Shanghai’s SSE Composite Index rose 0.4 percent to end the week down 0.9 percent at 2,909.40.
In the U.S., the S&P Index finished the week off 2.7 percent at 495.10, putting it into negative territory, down 2.5 percent, for the year. With a 0.7 percent rise on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 1.5 percent for the week to 11,858.52. Frankfurt’s DAX, Paris’ CAC 40 and London’s FTSE 100 all rose Friday, putting their drop-offs for the week at 4.5 percent, 3 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
Among the 170 issues tracked by WWD, just 22 were up last week versus 146 that declined and two that were unchanged.
Companies around the world continued to weigh in with their pledges of support and updates on the status of their operations and employees.
The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. reaffirmed its financial projections for the fiscal year ending June 30, noting “better-than-expected sales growth in certain markets, as well as a lower negative effect from foreign currency translation…are mitigating the impact of the earthquake in Japan.”
But Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer, emphasized the human toll. “Most important to our company, we are thankful that all of our employees in Japan are safe and accounted for. We are amazed by their courage and dedication to support our business. We are also doing what we can to support the Japanese people in this moment of crisis.”
Lauder, which according to a spokeswoman derives between 4 and 5 percent of its revenues from Japan,said it will donate 100 million yen, or about $1.3 million, to the Japan Red Cross to aid the earthquake and tsunami relief effort.
Hermès said its Japanese division employed seven expatriates who are being flown back to their respective countries.
“In addition, the management of Hermès International has expressed its complete support for its subsidiary, and has given its general manager carte blanche to take any decision and commit any resources needed to best protect the security of employees and their families,” the company said, without providing additional details.
Although some foreign fashion brands were scaling back or relocating their Japan operations in light of the nuclear scare, a number of fashion executives remained in Tokyo and continued their work.
Japan Fashion Week, originally scheduled for this week, was canceled but a brand called Etw Vonnegut decided to break with the pack and show its fall-winter collection on Tuesday.
“As of now the number of people who have confirmed is quite low, but I think that is partly because many people still don’t know that we’re going ahead,” said the brand’s designer, who goes by the name of Olga. “People assume all the shows are canceled, so we’re trying to get the word out. I hope on the day there will be as many people watching the show as usual. We’ve been planning this for a while now and there are many people involved who are looking forward to it. I didn’t want to let anyone down.”
Japanese fashion magazines are also forging ahead. Nagisa Munezane, who works in the editorial department of Sweet magazine, said the magazine has run into a few problems because some of the talent agencies they work with for models, photographers and hair and makeup artists were closed last week so it had to look elsewhere to staff certain jobs but it is going forward.
Condé Nast gave Vogue Japan employees the option to work from home but many of them came into the office anyway.
Jason Coates, an Australian who runs a showroom called H3O, said the idea of leaving Tokyo is unthinkable. He said he had many business appointments booked for this week. His business brings emerging designers to Japanese retailers.
“To be honest, the thought of leaving Tokyo never occurred to me, despite the fact that everyone I have ever met has urged me to leave through Facebook and e-mails. For me, it’s not evacuation, it’s abandonment,” he said. “While my business is small and some might say niche, to me it’s essential to keep Tokyo’s industries running. To just stop working is to give in and let Tokyo and Japan falter, because of paranoia and fear.”
Several designers and fashion insiders have jumped into action to raise money for victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The CFDA is ironing out plans for a charitable online auction. Diane von Furstenberg said, “We want to support our friends in Japan and give them as much money as we possibly can.” Jen Brill, and Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim hosted a Friday night fund-raiser with auction items from 100 companies. And Tuesday night Maria Cornejo and her husband Mark Borthwick will host a benefit in her Bleecker Street store. They will sign Zero + Maria Cornejo’s new range of limited edition T-shirts imprinted with Borthwick’s photographs. Profits from the T-shirt sales will benefit Doctors Without Borders.
As Japan on Friday commemorated the one-week anniversary of the quake and tsunami, life in Tokyo began resuming some normality. Residents reported that supermarket and convenience store shelves were better stocked with food.
Several foreign fashion houses had said they plan to reopen their Tokyo operations today although rolling blackouts in the outlying areas of the city are expected to continue for several weeks due to a power shortage. On Thursday, Tokyo Electric Power warned that Tokyo risked a widespread blackout, forcing retailers to shutter early and commuters to head home earlier than usual, but the blackout never happened.
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