Kai Ryssdal: You can look at equities, stock exchanges around the world, and say completely reasonably, that the earthquake in Japan really did a number on global markets. The Dow Industrial and pretty much every other major index you can think of have had very rough times recently.
But there's actually far more to the story. There's currencies -- the Japanese Yen, in particular -- which is at its strongest level against the dollar since World War II this week. Companies are running for cover, yanking new share and bond offerings from the markets. But whether its an end to the rally that ushered out the financial crisis, or just a breather? That's where our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore comes in.
Heidi Moore: No matter how smart you are on Wall Street, you can't totally hedge against a potential nuclear catastrophe. That's why Apollo Group, an investment firm, delayed its plan to start selling shares to investors. So did the backers of one France's biggest television companies. Several other companies pulled plans to sell new bonds.
Caution is a natural response, says Richard Silfen. At law firm Duane Morris, he advises companies on how to raise money through the stock and bond markets.
Richard Silfen: Most executives I think will ultimately decide to put the deal on hold and to sit on the sidelines for at least a month and see what happens.
The health of the markets hinges on the fate of Japan's troubled reactors, says Peter Boockvar, a strategist with Miller Tabak.
Boockvar: I think that's the most important thing right now for markets, whether these nuclear reactors get stabilized or not.
Boockvar expects the market to take a long pause now after its two-year rally. He says investors react badly to any uncertainty -- and we've had a lot lately, like the revolutions in the Middle East and the European debt crisis. Larry Kantor, who heads the global research group at Barclays, is more optimistic.
Larry Kantor: The Japanese earthquake does not spell the end of the recovery in economies or financial markets.
One software company, Cornerstone OnDemand, already tested the choppy markets today by selling its shares. They jumped about 50 percent.
Most IPOs rise on their first day of trading. But there is one thing everyone agrees on: all bets are off if the nuclear crisis turns into a catastrophe.
In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.