Market Overview

Trading A Weakened El Nino

Trading A Weakened El Nino

When Hurricane Sandy tore through the northeast in 2012, it left behind an estimated $72 billion in damages. New York, alone, took a $33 billion economic hit forged by a two-day Wall Street shutdown, loss of 265,000 business properties and 2.2 million power outages.

This year, forecasters predict an above-normal hurricane season spanning June 1 to Nov. 30, which bodes well for next to no one, not for East Coast and Gulf Americans and not for businesses with regional exposure.

Economic Impact

Economists offer four competing theories surrounding natural disasters and their effects on national economies. They either result in permanent harm, temporarily delay growth, stimulate growth through restoration investments or accelerate growth by eliminating previous limitations of poor infrastructure.

But according to a pair of scholars at Columbia University and the University of California Berkeley, cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes are decidedly detrimental. The research team found that “each additional meter per second of annual nationally-averaged wind exposure lowers per capita economic output 0.37 percent 20 years later.”

An event causing damage in the 90th percentile yields a 20-year, 7.4-percent reduction in per capita incomes.

"There is no creative destruction," economist Amir Jina told The Atlantic in 2014. "These disasters hit us and [their effects] sit around for a couple of decades.”

The Losers

Among those expected to incur significant losses are property and casualty insurers, such as Allstate Corp (NYSE: ALL), Travelers Companies Inc (NYSE: TRV), Chubb Ltd (NYSE: CB) and Progressive Corp (NYSE: PGR). The industry is vulnerable to weather-related events, with a series of storms last summer doubling Progressive’s year-over-year catastrophic losses in July, prompting an eight-fold spike in August and quintupling losses in September.

Hurricane Katrina cost insurers $80 billion in property claims, while Sandy, which damaged or destroyed about 150,000 insured vehicles in New York alone, cost upward of $20 billion.

Not only are homes and businesses lost, but so are crops. Last fall’s Louisiana floods cost an estimated $14.3 million in rice fields, and past hurricanes crippled cotton, corn and pecan harvests. The inventory cuts and delayed reapings have subsequent effects on the likes of Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) and Seaboard Corp (NYSE: SEB), which process and market related foods.

Flooded roads temporarily stun brick-and-mortar traffic, prompting losses for retailers and restaurants, alike. From Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ: COST) and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (NASDAQ: WBA) to any of the Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM) and DineEquity Inc (NYSE: DIN) chains, sales are prone to stumble.

Blocked routes also disrupt shipment services, such as local United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE: UPS) and FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX).

Inventory deliveries by J B Hunt Transport Services Inc (NASDAQ: JBHT) and peers are delayed. A holdup in Swift Transportation Co (NYSE: SWFT), alone, can potentially set back clients Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE: WMT), Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT), Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) and Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE: RAD).

Related Link: Natural Gas Stocks Take Off Despite Calls For Warmer Weather

Gas prices soar and stunt oil-dependent industries. Ahead of Sandy, Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) closed its New Jersey refinery and PBF Energy Inc (NYSE: PBF) its plant, contributing to local shortages and augmenting the effects of gas station shutdowns. Katrina forced oil companies to evacuate 75 percent of manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to ultimately cut oil production by about a third. In combination with Hurricane Rita, it demolished 113 offshore platforms and sent oil prices soaring to about $5 per gallon.

Travel to and from the affected region stalls, prompting flight cancellations for Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) and United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE: UAL) along with cancelled reservations for Marriott International Inc (NASDAQ: MAR) and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (NYSE: HLT).

Tourist spots also suffer. A Florida storm, for example, could crush daily ticket sales at Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) or SeaWorld Entertainment Inc (NYSE: SEAS).

Even electronic entertainment declines as power outages cut cable access and kill regional television viewership.

The Winners

Not everyone loses, though, and even those ostensibly suffering sometimes benefit from the destruction.

For example, if restaurants remain open or offer delivery services, they may cater to consumers unable to cook from their powerless homes. Trucking services may pick up extra cargo loads to serve the resource-exhausted region. And even as travel to and from the region stalls, hotels gain strength among local residents unable to return home or seeking the comforts of electricity.

While infrastructure projects are delayed or compromised, companies like Granite Construction Inc. (NYSE: GVA) and Fluor Corporation (NEW) (NYSE: FLR) secure post-storm renovation contracts and relevant revenue.

Home improvement stores like Home Depot Inc (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (NYSE: LOW) gain pre-storm consumers stocking up on emergency supplies and post-storm customers in need of property repair.

And, of course, Visa Inc (NYSE: V), Mastercard Inc (NYSE: MA) and other financial players capitalize on the rising debt of storm victims making desperate and expensive purchases.


Related Articles (ADM + ALL)

View Comments and Join the Discussion!

Posted-In: News Education Commodities Topics Events Global Markets Trading Ideas Best of Benzinga