Some of you might find it perverse to consider the economic fallout from today's disaster in China's Sichuan province, but the nation's manufacturing activities have become so critical to global commerce that it's hard not to ask the question. Merrill Lynch economists say that the earthquake did not hit a major manufacturing center and caused little or no damage to regional transportation. The province is mainly an agricultural area, accounting for just 2.5 percent of manufacturing output. They believe the quake will have a smaller impact on China's economy than a series of freak snow storms earlier this year that knocked out power, closed airports and disrupted rail lines. Supply shortages, however, do run the risk of fueling inflation.
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