Those affected by Hurricane Sandy woke up this morning to devastation. Trees down, flooding, fires and property damage, hundreds of thousands without power, hospitals in New York evacuating, in some cases moving critical and neonatal patients, transportation at a standstill, and most unfortunate, the loss of life. Everyone in the storm’s path is in our thoughts. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press conference on right now says it could be the worst storm the city has ever experienced.
Now the business begins of cleaning up and putting things back to normal.
From a business standpoint, we previously reported that the markets would be closed again today. We heard on NBC this morning (via CNBC reporter Bob Pisani) that the New York Stock Exchange is working feverishly to reopen tomorrow, particularly because it’s month-end. Today, the focus is on checking out backup generators for power, communications systems, and whether or not a couple hundred people can make it to work tomorrow. You can get more info about that here. But it is expected that the NYSE will open in at least a limited fashion.
Ultimately, as the clean up effort begins, companies, individuals and the government are trying to assess the cost of the damage the storm has caused, though estimates have already put the price tag at $20 billion with insurance covering between $5 billion and $10 billion.
As Forbes points out (h/t to our writer Ann Brown), the personal toll for workers who can’t make it to work and can’t work from home has yet to be tabulated. That includes restaurant workers, hotel staffers, and others who depend on an hourly wage to make ends meet.
Then there are those who have lost their homes or who are without power. The storm could actually help some industries, like construction, home supplies and food markets, where activity will rise as the aftermath unfolds. The impact will be felt for days but should be temporary, reports the Wall Street Journal, quoting Moody’s Analytics.
“Sales, wages and productivity will all take a big hit. The storm, for instance, is arriving at the tail end of the $8 billion Halloween retail season. But some sales can be made up later, and the storm will drive purchases of items like plywood and generators that wouldn’t otherwise have been sold,” the paper says.
Department stores have shut and, even when they reopen, shoppers won’t necessarily be flocking to them. Travel has been reduced and might be for some time. Events, like the Google Nexus unveiling that had been planned for yesterday, were put off, which interrupts prospects for the holiday shopping season.
The New York Times points out “intertemporal substitution” will probably take place, with consumer activity likely taking place at a higher volume in the coming days to make up for the missed time. Gas prices may also spike, but then come back down to Earth.
As a final note for those who were expecting it, the consumer confidence index has been postponed until Thursday.
And on a final note, here’s one of the many incredible images from the storm that’s been making the rounds on the Internet, a carousel in downtown Brooklyn, still lit, floating but intact.