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HAVE you ever seen so much "news" all at one time? It's hard to know which way to turn. At a certain rugby match in Dublin last weekend, large groups of hairy men temporarily put to one side talk of the fairer sex as the momentous events of recent weeks sobered their conversations. It's true – but it was only temporary of course.

Of course, there haven't been many uplifting moments in the last month – disaster in Japan, threats of nuclear fallout, chaotic scenes in the Middle East, foreign powers almost proving the UN pointless then just managing the courage to do something about Gaddafi. Not to mention minor shipping-related issues like the Russian export ban on grains.

Unsurprisingly, markets have been jumping up and down like yo-yos as they try to absorb the effect of all these developments.

As Holman Fenwick Willan remarks in its latest client briefing, the impact on commodities has been dramatic, taking into account events in Japan and the Middle East, not to mention floods in Australia. There has been a fall in oil prices in Japan, offset by a rise elsewhere because of the Middle East situation. And aluminium, copper and coffee are just some of the commodities that have fallen in price.

Meanwhile, Japanese demand for coal and other imports has risen to offset the fall in output from its nuclear power stations and as that stricken nation looks to outside sources to begin its long road to disaster recovery.

We were already expecting a turbulent year or two for shipping. Who could have predicted the events of the first quarter of 2011? We wonder what the rest of the year has in store?!

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