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Timing of Taiwan quakes lucky for Asian markets

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BOB MOON: Two people died today as earthquakes shook the southern coast of Taiwan. And for all the talk of how resilient the Internet is supposed to be, the quakes damaged undersea broadband cables, and that knocked out communications through much of Asia.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports the financial markets may have escaped major damage thanks to the timing.

AMY SCOTT: The earthquakes disrupted telephone and Internet service in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, even parts of India. And that tripped up business across Asia. In Seoul this morning, the foreign exchange market slowed to a trickle. Stock traders switched to backup systems. Even in New York, currency trader Dixon Fung with MG Financial says business took a hit.

DIXON FUNG: We have lost a lot of connections to our Asia clients, mostly in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong.

Then again, fewer clients do business during the week after Christmas. Rakesh Shankar with Moody’s says that could soften the financial blow.

RAKESH SHANKAR: What it does is, it makes a slow week even slower. I mean, this isn’t exactly the most crucial time of the year in terms of economic activity. So, it’s more an inconvenience, I think, than an economic story. But the question really is how long it takes to get us back online again.

Telecom providers say it could take weeks to repair the damaged lines. The quake was so strong it even destroyed some backup cables. Financial services analyst Denise Valentine with Celent says there’s only so much backing-up of the network these companies can do.

DENISE VALENTINE: We haven’t yet resolved some way to overcome nature. And as long as it requires hardware, and lines, and pipes, and this sort of thing, we’ll be subject to that kind of chaos.

And with the next natural disaster, the timing may not be so convenient for business.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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