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Stock Market News for October 31, 2012

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Markets remained closed for the second-straight day as hurricane Sandy threatened to affect 60 million lives. While many companies had to postpone their earnings releases, a few including Ford and Archer Daniels Midland came out with their results. Markets are now expected to reopen starting Wednesday, though activities on the NYSE might be limited to electronic trading. Meanwhile, Sandy, one of the biggest ever storms to hit the U.S., has left millions of households without power.

While it was the first time in 27 years that markets were closed due to weather troubles, NYSE’s announcement of suspending operations on Tuesday as well marked the first time since 1888 that the exchange was closed for two consecutive days owing to the weather. Markets are now expected to open on Wednesday. Larry Leibowitz, chief operating officer of NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX), said: “We have a green light”. U.S. stock market operators conducted a test; whereby they tested trading activities based on the backup system of NYSE. Apart from NYSE, Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ), CME (NASDAQ:CME) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (NASDAQ:CBOE) will also resume operations.

Though markets remained closed, some corporate results were released. Among them, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) reported a 17.6% year-on-year surge in its third quarter earnings. The company also outpaced the Street’s estimates and the results were helped by a strong showing by North American operations. Also, Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE:ADM) beat estimates, though its quarterly earnings slipped almost 14% from the year-ago quarter.

Meanwhile, the S&P Dow Jones Indices released the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices on Tuesday, which marked a 0.9% increase in average home prices for both the 10- and 20-City Composites in August as against the previous month. While 19 of the 20 cities registered gains, only Seattle incurred a 0.1% drop. However, the consumer confidence report which was scheduled to be released on Tuesday was postponed to November 1

Looking at the economic impact of Sandy, various forecasts predict the storm will cause damages of up to $50 billion. Earlier, Eqecat, a disaster modeling company, had projected that the U.S. economy may incur losses between $10 billion and $20 billion. Separately, Kinetic Analysis Corp is projecting losses will reach $25 billion; while its research and development director said insured losses amount to $7 billion to $8 billion. Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight estimates that property damages may touch $20 billion and another $10 billion to $30 billion will be incurred as lost business. The storm has already left about 8 million houses without power and thousand of flights have been cancelled. Also, about 70% of East Coast oil refineries were forced to remain closed. Moreover, New York has been severely affected and this region substantially contributes to the nation’s economic output.

However, certain experts say the damages are a short term phenomenon, as in the longer run, reconstruction activities will contribute to the growth. IHS Global Insight projects a 0.6 percentage point negative effect on the nation’s economic growth for the quarter ending in December. Striking a positive note, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi, said: “The bottom line is, it's very disruptive, very painful, but at the end of the day these kinds of natural disasters typically don't show up in national economic data”. He also said the count for unemployed people may be balanced by people working extra hours in reconstruction activities.

Thus, the act of rebuilding will boost certain sectors. Forbes has compiled a list of 10 stocks that may gain from the situation. 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. Also, The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's Companies Inc. (NYSE:LOW), which can be instrumental in the ‘repair work’, feature on the list. The need to pump out the flood might see the businesses of Xylem Inc. and Pentair Ltd (NYSE:PNR) improve.

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