U.S. News

Northeast hit with snow, and transportation stocks trade lower

Fmr. Spirit Airlines CEO on airport delays

When a snowstorm hits the Northeastern United States, impacting thousands of flights, shuttering public transportation services and giving the kids the day off from school, what's happening on Wall Street?

"There's not a major effect [on stocks] but it certainly [impacts them] some way," former Spirit Airlines Chief Executive Ben Baldanza told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Tuesday.

Airlines in particular will save some money as a result of Tuesday's nearly 6,000 canceled flights, but those cancellations also cost companies because some expenses, like fuel, are fixed, Baldanza said.

"Airlines hope to get their operations starting again, but they never get all their revenue back," he added.

On Tuesday afternoon all components of the Dow Jones transportation index were trading in the red, dragged lower by airline stocks such as United Continental, American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and Delta.

However, airline stocks aren't the only ones hit by Tuesday's snow. The trucking industry will be hurt the most, Avondale Partners' Don Broughton told CNBC.

Trucks have the "lowest asset utilization" in unfortunate weather scenarios like a blizzard — they can slip and slide, or damage cargo, Broughton explained. The rail industry won't be impacted quite as severely but it will be to an extent, followed by air freight carriers, he said.

Broughton went on to explain how weather will have a "significant impact" on earnings this year, considering the first quarter of last year was a record mild winter, from both a temperature as well as a precipitation perspective, he said.

Looking at the bigger picture, Broughton and Baldanza both agreed that oil prices are something to watch with respect to transportation stocks in 2017, more so than weather.

Oil prices have slid to new lows of late after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reported a rise in global crude inventories along with an unexpected jump in production from the group's biggest member, Saudi Arabia.

"When the price of oil goes down, [airline stock] prices tend to come down," Baldanza said. "The industry is more stable with higher oil prices, as odd as that sounds."