The effect of the highly talked-about Hurricane Irma was weaker than feared in Florida but the level of destruction was still pretty high. The cost of the storm varies from analyst to analyst. As per the guardian, “the economic cost of Hurricane Irma could rise as high as $300 billion” as it ravaged homes, businesses and farms on its way up.
Insured losses from Hurricane Irma are projected from $20bn to $65bn, according to risk modelling companies, as per an article published on Financial Times. On the other hand, AccuWeather founder, "estimated that Hurricane Harvey is to be the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history at $190 billion or one full percentage point of the GDP.”
Damage estimate caused by Irma is expected to be about $100 billion or 0.5 percentage point of total GDP. AccuWeather estimates these two disasters (Harvey and Irma) will account for about 1.5 of a percentage point of the GDP.
That said, let’s discuss the key areas that call for attention right now for profits or losses.
Gasoline: Helped by Harvey, Marred by Irma
Harvey has thumped a quarter of oil production from the Gulf of Mexico and a substantial portion of the U.S. refining capacity. Lower demand from refineries put pressure on crude oil prices and ETFs like Oil Fund LP USO. However, demand for finished product gasoline rose, benefiting United States Gasoline Fund (UGA - Free Report) . As crack spread rose, VanEck Vectors Oil Refiners ETF (CRAK - Free Report) gained.
However, Irma weighed on natural gas futures by cutting demand from power plants, and will likely hurt oil and refined products’ prices by obstructing shipments to the nation’s third-largest gasoline market. Irma has quashed power to 3.3 million customers, brought tanker traffics to a halt and shut about 6,000 gasoline stations. United States Natural Gas Fund LP UNG was off 2.7% on Sep 8 and CRAK lost 0.2%.
Agriculture ETFs to Rule Ahead?
First, Harvey washed away the largest U.S. cotton producer, drenching extra supplies stored on fields by many Texas farmers. Then Irma may ruin Florida’s farmlands, ravaging $1.2 billion worth of fresh tomatoes, oranges, green beans, squash and sugar cane. After impacting the eastern coast of Florida, Irma is expected to shift to Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — states famous for cotton, grain and livestock, as per CNBC.
Needless to say, against this backdrop, iPath Pure Beta Livestock ETN LSTK, PowerShares DB Agriculture ETF (DBA - Free Report) , iPath Pure Beta Cotton ETN CTNN and Teucrium Sugar Fund (CANE - Free Report) may be up for gains (read: Hurricane Irma: ETF Winners & Losers).
Can Insurance Industry Survive the Storm?
With huge destruction in Texas and Florida, insured losses could be sky high. Property and casualty insurance companies may be hit hard as these are likely to shell out handsomely on claims in such catastrophic storms.
Florida was smashed in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, slammed insurers with $15 billion and led to the failure of more than a dozen insurers. So, one can expect how heavy the impact on insurance companies would be this time around. iShares US Insurance ETF (IAK - Free Report) will likely feel the brunt.
However, if rates rise in the coming days, insurance companies may get some cushion. Plus, the global reinsurance industry is oversupplied with capital. As of March, it had about a $605-billion capital, thanks to fewer enormous natural disasters in the United States since 2005, as per Wall Street Journal (see all Financials ETFs here).
Already, shares of property and casualty homeowners insurance companies like Universal Insurance Holdings Inc. UVE and HCI Group Inc. HCI added about 8.9% and 2.7% on Sep 8. Reinsurers XL Group Ltd (XL - Free Report) and Everest Re Group Ltd. (RE - Free Report) too added about 5.8% and 5%, respectively. This means that most of the sell-offs are overdone and priced in at the current level. Insurance companies’ shares are recouping losses.
Home Retailers & Infrastructure in Sweet Spot
Rebuilding of homes and structures are necessary after a hurricane aftermath. Home Depot Inc. (HD - Free Report) and Lowe's Companies Inc. (LOW - Free Report) are thus in a bright spot. ETFs like Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY - Free Report) and PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction (PKB - Free Report) should also benefit (read: Home Retailer ETFs Set to Gain After Harvey).
A Boon for Auto Sales Too?
Repurchase of cars will gain traction now on higher replacing demand for the damaged vehicles. First Trust NASDAQ Global Auto Index Fund (CARZ - Free Report) can thus gain ahead (read: Harvey: Pain or Gain Ahead for Auto Stocks and ETFs?)
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