Nightly News   |  March 17, 2011

U.S. weathers ripple effects of Japan crisis

The nuclear emergency and humanitarian crisis in Japan are likely to have a huge economic impact on the U.S.--some of the effects of which are already being felt. NBC's John Yang reports.

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>>> we're back with more on the disaster in japan . along with the nuclear emergency and the humanitarian crisis , there are big economic impacts to consider, some of them already hitting home here in the u.s. nbc's john yang has our report from chicago.

>> reporter: economists say the spiraling crisis threatens the u.s. economic recovery. today gm announced it's shutting a plant in louisiana because of a shortage of parts from japan .

>> japan , you know, the third largest economy, huge trading relationships with the united states , it's got to have an impact here. overall, it will be negative.

>> reporter: at the world's top seller of toyota's popular prius hybrid, they're worried because production has been halted until at least next week.

>> it's basically the most popular car that we have, so if we can't get enough, it's a big problem for us.

>> reporter: it's not just japanese brands. analysts say virtually all u.s. autos have japanese-made components.

>> navigation systems , radios, all of the electronics, so many of them come from japan .

>> reporter: with prius supplies in doubt, gas-conscious buyers might turn to chevrolet's electric car , the volt. but its transmission is made in japan .

>> it's hard to drive the car without the transmission.

>> reporter: then there are computer chips . one-fifth of world production is japanese. these days computer chips aren't just in electronic devices like blackberries or ipads they're in household appliances like refrigerators, stoves and microwave ovens. even if plants are undamaged, analysts say disruption of the huge amounts of electricity and water chip-making requires would soon put all sorts of products in short supply and could lead retailers to do away with discounts and rebates.

>> the global economy is truly interlinked in a way that we really didn't appreciate 20 or 30 years ago.

>> reporter: a looming economic impact compounding an already enormous human toll. john yang , nbc news, chicago.