Chip prices up after Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown fears

After the Japan earthquake and tsunami, come the nuclear meltdown fears. All this is causing DRAM and NAND chip spot prices to rise rapidly. While the world mourns, it's adding to worries about the Japanese economy.

By Richi Jennings. March 15, 2011.

Update 1, 8.45am EDT: add comment from Apple-J employee.

Update 2, 3.00pm EDT: add comment from Jonny Evans.

DRAM and NAND flash memory chip prices are rising, after last week's 9.0 Mw earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent nuclear meltdown fears. Aside from the quake's terrible human tragedies and the acute damage to the Japanese economy, we also may have to pay more for our computers and gadgets. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers fear for the future.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention Super Mario with Real-Life Sound Effects...

Lucas Mearian tells us why:

Markets displayed concern over fabrication plant shutdowns, power outages and supply chains. ... DRAM surged by as much as 7.56% and ... NAND flash memory chips ... 20.48%. ... Japan accounts for 35.7% of the world's NAND flash production and 13.6% of DRAM. ... Fabrication facilities have been "seriously" affected by the 8.9 magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami.


Toshiba and SanDisk's two major fabrication facilities, Fab 3 and Fab 4, are 800 miles away from the earthquake's epicenter, and production at those sites was described as "delicate." ... NAND flash memory makers Samsung and Hynix have stopped providing price information. ... Spot prices for NAND flash and DRAM in China have also started increasing.

  Nobunaga Chai spices it up:

Northeast Japan is ... one of the nation's major manufacturing locations. Several of Japan's major semiconductor companies [have] manufacturing spots in the northeast prefectures ... of Fukushima, Miyagi, Aomori, Yamagata, Iwate and Akita.


Disruptions in transportation and power infrastructure will inevitably ... impact on chip companies. ... There is also concern about supply constraints for upstream materials. ... Many chipmakers have claimed that they [can use] alternatives if necessary. ... Wafer inventory among companies remains at a sufficient level of two to three months.


In 2010, Japan's semiconductor industry generated sales of US$44.6 billion ... 15.9% of total semiconductor revenues worldwide.

Unusually, Charlie Demerjian notes a mote of good news:

DRAM maker Elpida seems to have escaped damage with only power loss related shutdowns. Given the overwhelming scope of the tragedy, this is about as good an outcome as you could hope for.


The Hiroshima fab is totally unaffected ... as one would expect from a location in the far southern part of Japan. ... Their second fab in Akita ... a bit north of the quake epicenter, was only affected by the loss of power.


We ... hope Elpida and the rest of Japan has a very quick recovery from this tragedy. Our thoughts go out to all the people affected.

But Om Malik worries for the Internet:

The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Japan have caused widespread damage to undersea communications. ... the following cables have been damaged: APCN-2 ... Pacific Crossing West and Pacific Crossing North ... East Asia Crossing network ... a segment of the Japan-U.S. Cable Network ... PC-1.


Most of the damaged network routes land in the Ajigaura or Kitabaraki landing stations. ... The tsunami and earthquake have not damaged ... stations that are in the South of Tokyo, or on [the] other side of the sheltered inlet that becomes Tokyo Bay.

 And an anonymous Japanese Apple Store employee writes from Tokyo:

7 hours and 118 aftershocks later, the store was still open. ... Millions of people [were] stuck in the Tokyo shopping district ... hundreds of people were swarming into Apple stores to watch the news ... and contact their families. ... There are almost no free wifi spots in Japan besides Apple stores, so even Android users often come to the stores.


Almost everyone who worked in Tokyo was stranded deep in the city. ... Hundreds of [Apple employees] were instantly homeless. ... Apple told all of their staff - Retail and Corporate - that they could go sleep at the Apple stores. ... Genius because ... with theater rooms and breakrooms designed for 150+ people, the Apple stores were the most comfortable places to be and to sleep.


As I write this now 3 days later, even though the Japanese government says everything is fine, nuclear plants continue to explode. ... Things may only get worse before they get better.

  Meanwhile, Jonny Evans worries about iPad 2 production:

Manufacture and distribution could be impacted by the appalling disaster unfolding in Japan. ... Japan supplies as much as 40 percent of the world's flash memory chips. ... Some of the world's largest suppliers of key materials are based in the disaster zone itself. ... Battery production will also be impacted.


There's no word yet on when production will restart -- or if production workers will ... actually return to work, given that many, many thousands of folk are now homeless. ... It's impossible to estimate the full long-term consequences of what's going on.


If you want to donate to help relief efforts in Japan, don't trust the scammers, go direct via: American Red Cross.


And Finally...

Super Mario with Real-Life Sound Effects

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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