Randy Larsen (see http://biosecurityblog.com/ ) has long observed that natural disasters actually seem to stimulate the economy, as people replace homes, businesses, etc. Well here is his observation played out on a global scale.
Turns out that a record earthquake, terrible tsunami, and multiple nuclear disasters have driven the value of the Japanese currency UP dramatically -- so high that their economic recovery may be hampered because their exports will cost so much. Why would the value of the Yen go UP after such disasters?
Answer: Because investors all over the world have confidence that Japan will rebuild. In the process they will cash out bonds around the globe (especially in the US) and received huge payouts from insurance. So there will be a lot of cash flowing toward Japan, and a lot of economic activity as they rebuild. (Good time to own cement or wood production, by the way.)
And as a result, the value of the US dollar is down, as people anticipate that we will have to pay higher interest to fund the debt instruments that Japan will cash in.
Turns out it is hard to avoid the consequences of irresponsible behavior on our part. see http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/17/g-7-countries-announce-joint-currency-intervention-to-support-ja/
And by the way - the destruction and human loss in Japan are beyond words. But from a strategic perspective, expect them to come back stronger than before, as old means of production are replaced with state of the art equipment and processes. Their human losses cannot be replaced. But their responsible behavior will be rewarded in the long run.
To donate to Japan relief see http://www.redcross.org/