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While Houston, Texas and other parts of the Gulf are still reeling under the effects of Hurricane Harvey, another storm is brewing which might hit the Sun Shine state of Florida. Irma, which has become the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, will hit the shores of Florida in some days’ time. It has already caused widespread devastation in the Caribbean.

While Irma has already hit the insurance, travel and restaurant industries hard, home improvement retailers stand to gain.

Irma Lashes Caribbean Islands, Florida Braces for It

Irma has claimed at least eight lives and has severely injured 23 in the French Caribbean island territories. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb expects the death toll to go higher, while it’s devastating impact wrecked roads and telecommunications systems. Significant destruction was also reported in St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control.

The Category 5 storm is set to hit South Florida on Sep 10. Residents of Florida are fleeing to safety as the hurricane might hit with record-breaking winds of 185 miles an hour. The 400-mile-wide hurricane is devastating enough to affect the entire state. Florida Governor Rick Scott warned that Irma is bigger and stronger than hurricane Andrew that had wrecked the state in 1992.

U.S. Military Gears Up for Irma

U.S. military is deploying ships and personnel to cater to the potential crisis. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved naval ships USS Oak Hill and the USS Kearsarge to provide relief. The Navy is also preparing to dispatch USS Iwo Jima and the USS New York. These actions are being carried out while the storm roars through the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.

Three air force bases, Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Warner Robbins AFB in Georgia, have been designated to carry out recovery operations. The National Guard has also been alerted. The National Guard has around 650 members in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 5,200 members in Puerto Rico and more than 7,000 in Florida.

Florida Damage Might Hit Stock Market

Irma has already sent ripples through the U.S. equity market, just days after Harvey wreaked havoc in the southern states.

Insurance Stocks Take a Hit

Since Irma is the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin, damage to properties and infrastructure is inevitable. Stock prices of providers of property and casualty homeowners insurance, having heavy exposure to Florida, are taking a beating.

Prominent among them are HCI Group Inc (HCI - Free Report) , Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc. and Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc (HRTG - Free Report) , whose shares tanked 16.1%, 13.1% and 11.8% this month, respectively. Collectively, the SPDR S&P Insurance ETF (KIE - Free Report) is down 2.9% for the month.

Cruise Lines Also Face the Brunt

Shares of cruise line operators, including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL - Free Report) and Carnival Corp (CCL - Free Report) , lost value. Cruise operators are canceling voyages and rerouting ships to avoid stops at islands that maybe affected. While Royal Caribbean canceled two trips to Port Canaveral and Miami-based vessels to the Bahamas, Carnival rerouted four vessels from Eastern Caribbean to Western Caribbean. Additionally, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH - Free Report) will bring back two of its Miami-based ships.

Shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corp and Norwegian Cruise Line are down 4.5%, 3.6% and 3.9%, respectively, in the month.

Restaurant Stocks Lose Strength

Restaurants having significant number of locations in Florida are likely to see decline in revenues in the third and fourth quarter. Deadly winds will result in closure of outlets and displace workers.

As per Canaccord analyst Lynne Collier, restaurants that are most at risk are Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc FRGI, which owns Taco Cabana; Ruth's Hospitality Group, Inc. (RUTH - Free Report) , which operates Ruth's Chris Steak House and Bloomin’ Brands Inc (BLMN - Free Report) . While Fiesta has about 37% of its restaurants in Florida, Ruth's Hospitality has about 21% and Bloomin' Brands around 19%. Shares of all three restaurants declined more than 2% this month.

The table shows the % of exposure other well-known restaurants have in Florida:

RestaurantShare of Exposure
BJ's Restaurants12%
Shake Shack11%
Ruby Tuesday10%
Brinker International10%


(Source: Canaccord Genuity)

Irma to Drive Home-Improvement Stocks

Unlike the aforesaid stocks, home improvement companies are poised to benefit once Irma makes a landfall.As home owners face damaged properties, likelihood of rebuilding efforts will gain momentum. This in turn will drive demand for home-improvement equipment and materials.

Shares of multi-channel specialty retailer of hardwood Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc (LL - Free Report) are already up 5.1% this month. Shares of Kirkland's, Inc. KIRK, a specialty retailer of home décor and Tempur Sealy International Inc (TPX - Free Report) a bedding manufacturer, have also been in the green this month. Home building and furnishing retailer Home Depot Inc (HD - Free Report) , in the meantime, saw its shares climb 4.5% this month. Several Home Depot stores throughout Florida will receive additional inventory to help those preparing for Irma.

Lumber Liquidators, Kirkland's, Tempur Sealy International and Home Depot boast a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and saw the Zacks Consensus Estimate for their current-year earnings move north in the last 60 days. All of these companies have positive estimated growth rate for the current and next quarters (read more: 4 Home-Improvement Stocks to Buy Post Harvey Mayhem).

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