1. The new Prime Minister of Japan will be Yoshihiko Noda. Will be because the process is: a) being elected head of the ruling party, which was today Japan time, b) must still be designated by the Diet (their Congress), then c) appointed by the Emperor. In addition to Fukushima (100,000 still in shelters, and the area around the powerplant will be unlivable for centuries), their biggest problem is that Noda will be the fifth PM in six years with twelve still living. Barack Obama is president #44. Since 1885, Japan has had 95 PMs. However, the system kind of works because the new administration generally honors the promises of the past PMs.
2. The total damage from Hurricane Irene will probably amount to $7 billion, but it depends on what you count. According to that article, Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive disaster (9/11 was #2 at $23 billion) at $45 billion, but there are reports of the cost being $108 billion. So you would expect insurance stocks to drop today? Nope, everyone expected worse, so AIG, America's largest insurer, is, as of this writing, up 7% today. There were 21 deaths, mostly from the high winds. Lot of sevens, as, perhaps 70 million felt some effects of Irene and up to 7 million went without electricity for any period. Was Irene as large as Europe? Probably not. Texas sized, maybe, and this state may be next to face a major storm. Incidentally, it's kind of, again, what you count, but Europe is slightly larger than the U.S. in area, with a population about double ours.
The relieved Dow Jones Industrials jumped 255 to 11,539, with world markets also mostly up. Gold dropped $43/toz to $1787 and crude oil is slightly up, the Brent Spot at $112/barrel, with the WTI at $87/barrel. The Chicago Mercantile Index has oil in December of 2019 (more than 8 years from now) at $98/barrel.
Hurricane Irene has left the continent, although there is a storm brewing following the same path in the Caribbean as her, destined to become another hurricane. In the West Pacific, Typhoon Nanmadol breezed over Taiwan and is now a tropical storm to crash into China close to Xiamen. However, Tropical Storm Talas will attain Category 2 status in a couple of days, and the current projection predicts landfall over Yokohama by this weekend, and weakening, but, interestingly enough, heading right over Fukushima: