Hurricane Isaac is a bust for stocks — and that's a good thing. (Read more: Isaac Upgraded to Hurricane, Takes Aim at New Orleans)
I've been asked about how to play Isaac. There are a couple of obvious choices. The storm hasn't hit yet, so this is all preliminary, but so far the market is not acting like Isaac is going to be a significant event. And that is not bad news. Less devastation is good. (Read more: $36 Billion Worth of Homes at Risk)
1) Marine transports. Tidewater , Hornsbeck and a couple others move people in the energy business around the Gulf of Mexico: they operate the boats. They had pops during Katrina, but are doing nothing on Isaac.
Even companies that provide capital equipment, like Oceaneering International , which provides many of the pipeline infrastructure in the gulf, are not moving. Nor are offshore drillers that have exposure in the area, such as Transocean .
2) Natural gas. Nat gas went over $15 during Katrina, but it is trending DOWN in the last few days. Huh? A lot has changed since Katrina. M U.S. gas is on shore now, not offshore. And refiners in the gulf coast use natural gas to run their refineries, but those refineries are now shut down. Not bullish for nat gas.
3) Oil and gas exploration and production. Some companies like Gulfport Energy , Denbury Resources and PetroQuest Energy have announced shut downs of fields in the Gulf, but the stocks prices have not moved.
4) Refiners. Some modest moves in Valero and Tesoro and HollyFrontier , but a Category I storm is not likely to cause heavy, long term damage. This could be more of an issue if there is significant damage to the electric grid system.
5) Restaurants and food service. Bloomin’ Brands has significant presence in the Gulf area, that stock has traded down slightly in the last few days. Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday also have exposure; neither have been trading down.
6) Building materials/suppliers. It would seem that Home Depot and Lowes might be beneficiaries, but there was little long-term help from Katrina.
7) Insurance. Allstate, Travelers, Chubb, and Hartford have exposure and may incur claims, but likely within expected loss boundaries. Stocks not reacting.
—By CNBC’s Bob Pisani
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