Hurricane Sandy is a market-moving force.
I'm a Floridian and well versed in how quickly hurricane forecasts can change. Sandy is a Category 1 storm right now, but she might lose some of her power before washing ashore. If so, the damages will be much smaller and the impact on all kinds of business also drops. I'm certainly not hoping for a major disaster here. But if it happens, you should know how the storm might affect your retirement savings.
And I'm not just talking about the surge of plywood sales at Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) and Lowe's (NYSE: LOW ) , though the home improvement chains will certainly benefit from preparation and repairs.
I'm thinking a bit bigger. This could be the perfect time to invest in heavy construction stocks. Fluor (NYSE: FLR ) and other major construction specialists will see a surge in contracts if greater New York City takes an 11-foot storm surge, as the National Hurricane Center fears. Vulcan Materials (NYSE: VMC ) and Cemex (NYSE: CX ) would be happy to sell huge volumes of basic materials to support these projects. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) will be there with machinery to get the job done.
$88 billion's worth of residential property sits in the projected storm-surge path of this megatwister, and that's before even considering damage to commercial and public property. The repair bills will be huge.
On the flipside of the same argument, I'd hate to be in the property insurance business right now. Worse yet, the reinsurance companies that buffer the household names of the insurance industry against disastrous losses are staring down the barrel of a gun.
Hurricane Katrina cost this industry some $25 billion when she drowned New Orleans back in 2006. The area in Sandy's sights is more densely populated the The Big Easy, not to mention the Northeastern seaboard's enormous stake in the economy. New Orleans held the headquarters of just 23 publicly traded companies when Katrina hit. For Sandy, there are nearly 1,000 major company headquarters within 100 miles of Asbury Park, NJ (bonus points if you know why I'm focusing on that spot), and that's after limiting the search to market caps of $100 million or more. And again, I'm oversimplifying and leaving out huge chunks of potentially ravaged land, stretching all the way down to North Carolina.
Keep a close eye on Sandy, even if you're nowhere near the eye of the hurricane. This bruiser looks likely to leave a mark on several industries that will take years to wash away.
Caterpillar is the market share leader in an industry in which size matters, and its quality products, extensive service network, and unparalleled brand strength combine to give it solid competitive advantages. Giving this brilliant company another hurricane-powered catalyst almost seems unfair. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in our brand new report. Just click here to access it now.