Market Overview

The Likely Winners and Losers of this Weekend's Epic Blizzard

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Boston’s WHDH meteorologist, Pete Bouchardon is on record calling the storm potentially “epic.” That was enough for airlines to cancel flights.

So far, based on weather forecasts alone, airlines have canceled more than 3,300 flights according to CNN. Carriers announcing schedule changes before the arrival of the nor’easter included Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL), United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) and JetBlue. (NASDAQ: JBLU) All three have hubs or bases in the New York area, the busiest U.S. aviation market.

Among those expected to profit from this storm are grocers and hardware stores, the two places people head for when a big storm is approaching. Stores like Home Depot (NYSE: HD) may see an uptick in same store sales as well as Lowe's (NYSE: LOW).

If consumers are stuck in their homes, shopping goes online and companies like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) could see a lift in first quarter earnings if the storm proves to be as big and devastating as forecasters are predicting.

Pizza delivery drivers who can brave snow more than two feet high in some areas are likely to see big tips, and so will the companies that employ them. Papa John's (NASDAQ: PZZA) and Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) will likely be winners over the weekend. (If only Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) delivered!)

Where there are winners, there are losers and the airlines aren’t the only stocks on the losing side. Long investors in names that require foot traffic might be disappointed when Q1 earnings season arrives. Movie theaters like Cinemark (NYSE: CNK) and Regal Entertainment (NYSE: RGC) will likely lose the weekend’s revenue with the storm expected to last well into the weekend.

Will insurance stocks take a hit? Not likely. Superstorm Sandy, and the $62 billion in losses that came with it, was responsible for the most insurance claims of any event in 2012, according to the Associated Press.The losses were large but insurers like Allstate (NYSE: ALL) and Travelers (NYSE: TRV) had ample reserves to cover the storm.

Insurance stocks tend to see small selloffs around large weather events but quickly recover once it becomes clear that it’s just another day at the office for insurers.

This storm may be blamed for any slide in the 2013 Q1 GDP. Just as Superstorm Sandy seemed to make its way onto the list of excuses for poor performance among corporations all over the country, Friday’s blizzard may be the Q1 scapegoat if numbers come in below expectations.

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