NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Winter storms across the U.S. this week have affected energy prices, airline travel and consumer spending, and could hit first-quarter economic numbers.
The storm has helped send natural-gas prices -- as measured by exchange-traded fund United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) -- higher. Prices have trended higher since the beginning of the year as demand for heat has risen. Temperatures have been in the sub-zero range for much of the country, and even in the South, temparatures have approached negative digits.
Natural-gas prices formed a channel pattern higher the past few days. Demand caused a short-term spike, but on a longer time-frame chart, the trend remains downward as increased supplies should ultimately lead to selling when the winter storm passes.
Flights across the country have been delayed or canceled the past few days, affecting business operations and possibly affecting economic growth. Halted flights may also weigh on airlines' revenue for the quarter, and although the storm seems like a one-time event, it could lead to lower earnings outlooks.
The weather has also hindered consumers' ability to go out to purchase items. Retail stocks have lagged broader indexes the past few days as investors see the storm affecting first-quarter retail sales.
Although record low temperatures have disrupted the status quo the past few days, it is prudent to remember we are witnessing a rare occurrence. Because the storm may show up in consumer and labor market data, analysts should appropriately guide expectations lower, which would lead to less chance of a downside miss.
Ultimately it is up to the overall trend of the economy to determine where markets move in the future.
At the time of publication, the author had no position in any of the funds mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.