NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As millions across the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest weigh damages from Hurricane Sandy, the storm also is having a wide-reaching effect on stocks spanning a number of industries.
Equity markets in New York opened for trading after being closed for two days. The hurricane, which took lives, stranded families and crippled utilities, touched industries ranging from refiners and retailers, to utilities, airlines, insurers and telecoms.
Meanwhile, in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan and across the Eastern Seaboard, rescue workers mounted a monumental effort to protect lives and repair basic infrastructure that spans nearly a dozen states as of Wednesday.
Major stock indices opened slightly higher only to fall, as investors digested the effect that Sandy may have on corporate earnings in coming quarters. Notably the technology sector underperformed, as a lock-up on hundreds of millions of Facebook (FB) shares ended and management changes at Apple (AAPL) pre-empted heavy selling.Investors braced for the worst, as estimates emerged that put the damage at $30 billion and up. Insurance giants like Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), Travelers (TRV) and Allstate (ALL) may suffer double the claims of Hurricane Irene, according to early industry-wide loss estimates from Eqecat, AIR Worldwide and Credit Suisse. On Tuesday, AIR estimated insurance claims may reach between $7 billion and $15 billion, more than Monday's initial figures from Eqecat. Both firms model and assess risk and catastrophe losses for the insurance industry. In a note to clients on Wednesday, Credit Suisse put fourth-quarter Hurricane Sandy-related losses between $5 billion and $15 billion, and cut the price targets of Allstate, Arch Capital (ACGL), Chubb (CB) and Travelers. Outside of direct property and casualty insurance claims, and those attributed to businesses hurt by the storm, analysts see a range of earnings increases and decreases across industries. Goldman Sachs analysts expect home-improvement giants like Home Depot (HD), Lowe's (LOW), Lumber Liquidators (LL) and Owens Corning (OC) to benefit from Sandy, as homeowners and businesses spend heavily to repair houses, offices and stores. Within the retail sector, the Goldman analysts, led by Matthew Fassler, forecast a hit to casinos, restaurants and discount stores, highlighting Boyd Gaming (BYD), The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE), Dollar Tree (DLTR), Dunkin' Brands (DNKN), Five Below (FIVE) and Panera Bread (PNRA). Those companies are concentrated in states like New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware -- in Sandy's wide storm path. "[We] believe the degree of impact on companies will likely depend on one or more of the following three drivers: stock-ups; store closings; and cleanup/rebuilding," Goldman's Fassler wrote. Other sectors will also face challenges depending on how crippling Sandy proves to be. As of early Wednesday, four million households remain without power and reports indicate the death toll attributed to the hurricane is approaching 50.
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