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Time, timing, markets and opportunities

By Dian Vujovich

I’ve been glued to the TV over the past few days watching videos and listening to the news surrounding Japan’s 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed. A beyond belief natural disaster like this one seems to trump everything on Wall Street. Yet at the same time I know there will be money to be made because of it.

If you’re any kind of market watcher, you know that the best time to buy stocks are when fear has set in and everyone else is selling them for one reason or another. If you’ve got the courage to invest against the grain of public sentiment, there can be some handsome financial rewards that come your way in time. It’s picking the right stocks and investing at the right time that’s the challenge. But that’s true no matter what’s going on.

With the Nikkei having lost all of the gains it had racked up this year, some would say that market is ripe with investment opportunity. Ours too, for that matter. Japan, after all, is world’s 3rd largest economy. It’s also an economy that was already struggling, is laden with debt and yet manufactures so much of the stuff we American’s love to buy. Like cars, TVs, cameras and semiconductors— 1 in 5 of the semiconductors manufactured today come from Japan. Even some of the flash chips Apple uses are made on that island country that’s slightly smaller than California.

It’s also an economy that is going to have to rebuild. And therein could be one of the silver linings to come as a result of this powerful act of nature. Hopefully, that rebuilding can begin soon and worries over a major nuclear disaster are averted.

Through March 10, the year-to-date average of the 43 Japanese funds that Lipper tracks was pretty close to flat—up less that one-half of one percent. Their average 2-year return was up 27.5 percent. That’s going to change in a downward fashion when Lipper’s numbers are released on Thursday.

It has always been a “nobody knows” market —and world— and it’s times like these that can jolt us out of our everyday focus on making money and into the reality of what matters most in our short lives.

Things like the fact that this earthquake has taken 1.5 microseconds of time away from us, shifted the earth’s axis by 6.5 inches and brought the areas nearest its epicenter 13 feet closer to the US and awesome.

But as one elderly Japanese gentlemen who has lost everything in this disaster, and looked to be old enough to recall another devastating disaster in his country—albeit a man-made one–said so eloquently, “I am alive.” And isn’t that where all opportunities truly begin.

(FYI, 1 in 5 Japanese are over the age of 65 today. The man-made disaster I’ve just referred to happened in 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

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