Japan has been hit with two major earthquakes and several smaller ones in the last week. Unfortunately, several dozen people have been killed and more than 100,000 have been displaced. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
The earthquakes could have an impact outside of Japan, however, as manufacturing of electronics and vehicles is disrupted. For example, Sony operates two image sensor plants on Kyushu island, which was hit hard in the quakes. Image sensors are used in any gadget that takes pictures or video.
Sony is taking the Kumamoto plant offline indefinitely to inspect it for damage. The Nagasaki plant will also go temporarily offline until the region becomes more stable.
Those two plants handle half of Sony's image sensor production, and Sony owns 40% of the image sensor market. Its image sensors are used in Apple's iPhones as well as plenty of other smartphones and digital cameras.
At this time, Sony says it has enough inventory stockpiled to avoid a disruption. However, if the earthquakes continue, we could eventually see a slowdown of production for gadgets with image sensors, along with rising prices.
A similar situation happened in 2011 when floods hit Thailand and destroyed a large number of hard-drive manufacturing factories. Global supply went down and prices skyrocketed, and the market took two years to recover.