Hurricane Sandy barreled its way onshore last night, and although the National Hurricane Center no longer considers it a tropical cyclone, Sandy remains a threat to areas as far west as Chicago. With unprecedented seawater surges causing trouble up and down the East Coast, the New York City metropolitan area was brought to a standstill, with major tunnels flooded and massive power outages affecting millions of people.
Through all of this, the stock markets remain closed. But the New York Stock Exchange intends to reopen tomorrow as long as conditions allow it to do so.
Global electronic futures trading does shed some light on where stocks might trade when the markets reopen. During yesterday's session, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) futures fell from the open and ended with about a 70-point loss. But after an initial drop this morning, Dow futures recovered all that ground, closing at levels that suggest little change from Friday's figures. For the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) , the news was arguably even better, with current futures prices pointing to a minor gain.
In Europe, markets were more upbeat, with the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) picking up nearly 1%. Asian markets fell prey to a late-day drop, with the Nikkei falling about 1%.
On the economic front, the latest reading of the S&P/Case-Shiller index posted a year-over-year increase of 2%, beating consensus estimates slightly and posting a big jump from the previous month's yearly growth. Among the 20 cities the index tracks, only Seattle posted a decline over the past month. Over the past year, Phoenix has seen the biggest gain of 18.8%, while Atlanta leads the three losing cities with a decline of 6.1%. Combined with the usual rebuilding impact from natural disasters, the favorable home-price news could further boost prospects for Dow component Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) , as well as Lowe's (NYSE: LOW ) and other companies that stand to benefit from a healthier housing market.
When the markets reopen, all eyes will be on the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the economy and on individual companies. But your long-run investing strategy needs to look beyond the storm's effects. Use this trading lull as a chance to catch up on some reading. Let me suggest the Fool's popular special report: "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.