Japan disaster could cause price hikes this coming quarter

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit the Japanese archipelago last Friday caused incalculable devastation, with which the Japanese government is still grappling—thousands dead, entire coastal towns turned to rubble and mud, and a badly damaged nuclear plant leaking radiation.

Amid the disaster, bean counters in the industry are beginning to gauge the impact on the global semiconductor market. The folks at IHS iSuppli have put together a report with their estimates. They say the quake's aftermath may begin to hit our wallets later this month and in early April as prices of components like memory, LCD panels, microcontrollers, and standard logic start to climb.

As the report points out, Japan is currently the world's largest silicon supplier, accounting for a whopping 60% of the global supply. With the island-nation's infrastructure badly damaged, shortages are bound to follow once current inventory in the global supply chain runs out. That should happen in about two weeks. IHS iSuppli adds that the "psychological impact" of the disaster has already caused a 10% jump in the price of high-density NAND flash memory.

Having to pay a few bucks more for memory or a new display doesn't even begin to compare to what the Japanese people are going through right now, of course... and I've gotta admit I feel a little dirty writing about this. Still, if you were planning an upgrade later this month, perhaps it'd be wise to pull the trigger before prices start rising—and maybe contribute the money you save to the relief effort.

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