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Stock Market News for October 30, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms to hit the U.S., forced the Street to shut operations on Monday. While the storm lashed the eastern coast, many companies had to postpone their earnings releases. Previously, markets were to remain shut only partially as electronic trading activities were to remain open. However, with the advent of a storm potent enough to affect around 60 million lives, markets had to be shut down completely and will remain so on Tuesday as well.

However, Sandy has left its mark in the exchanges’ record books. It was the first time in 27 years that the markets were shut due to weather issues. Also, NYSE’s announcement to shut operation on Tuesday as well will mark the first time since 1888 that the exchange will be closed back-to-back for two days due to weather troubles. Incidentally, this happens on the anniversary of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

The decision of the exchanges to remain closed came after consultations among the exchanges and ‘market participants’. NYSE’s official press release stated: “We support the consensus of the markets and the regulatory community that the dangerous conditions developing as a result of Hurricane Sandy will make it extremely difficult to ensure the safety of our people and communities, and safety must be our first priority. We will work with the industry to determine the next steps in restoring trading as soon as the situation permits”.

U.S. President Barack Obama declared emergency in some states. Eqecat, a disaster modeling company, projected that the U.S. economy may incur losses between $10 billion and $20 billion. Interestingly, while the storm has the potential to cause severe damage, certain sectors may somewhat get a boost. The chief economist at Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi, said: “Restaurants will be hurt, but grocery stores will benefit; general merchandise stores will lose business, but online retailing should get a boost”.

The nation’s infrastructure may suffer huge damage, but certain sectors may be benefitted. Forbes has compiled a list of 10 stocks that may gain from the situation.  The list includes The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's Companies Inc. (NYSE:LOW), which can be instrumental in the ‘repair work’. Also, the need to pump out the flood might see the businesses of Xylem Inc. and Pentair Ltd (NYSE:PNR) improve. Construction companies stand the best chance to benefit because of the reconstruction activities to be undertaken following the storm. Construction companies including Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) and Granite Construction Incorporated (NYSE:GVA) have therefore made it to the Forbes list.

However, looking at the broader landscape, Mark Zandi noted: “Of course, if the storm knocks out major infrastructure like refineries, cell towers, trains, sea and airports, then the economic damage will be more severe and difficult to recover from”. Another major concern is related to the nuclear industry. We had seen last year how natural disasters in Japan had affected nuclear plants, and thereafter the energy sector.  

Meanwhile, many companies had to postpone their earnings releases. Among them are Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADP), Avon Products Inc. (NYSE:AVP), Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI), Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ:DNDN), Hess Corporation (NYSE:HES), Iconix Brand Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ICON), MDC Holdings Inc. (NYSE:MDC), Office Depot, Inc. (NYSE:ODP), Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL), Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX) who have decided to postpone the release of the quarterly results.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis came out with personal income and personal spending data. According to the report, personal income was up 0.4% or $48.1 billion in September and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) gained 0.8% or $87.9 billion. The rise in personal income was in line with consensus estimates, but the rise in personal spending was ahead of the consensus estimate of a 0.6% rise.

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