Futures & Commodities

Irma spiking prices in orange juice, cotton and lumber

Key Points
  • Meteorologists: Irma is the strongest storm in 10 years.
  • Wall Street's weatherman: the track will change but Florida is likely to take a big hit.
  • Cotton, lumber and orange juice futures prices are moving big as the storm heads for the U.S.
NASA Sees Irma Strengthen to a Category 5 Hurricane.
Source: NASA

Hurricane Irma is gaining strength as it heads into the Caribbean. The latest model from the American Global Forecasting System shows it's likely to hit the U.S. on Sunday or Monday between Florida and the Carolinas.

That forecast then has Irma marching up the East Coast through the mid-Atlantic states and possibly into the Northeast.

This hurricane, which some are now calling the most powerful in a decade, comes just one week after Hurricane Harvey plowed into South Texas, killing at least 60 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Forecaster Dan Leonard of the IBM-owned Weather Co. said, "Irma is already in a rare class of storms with 180 mph winds." Leonard, sometimes known as "Wall Street's weatherman" because he advises many hedge funds and commodity traders, said he believes Irma could be a real monster, causing death and severe destruction.

Hurricane Irma turns into powerful Category 5 storm

This storm is moving into Puerto Rico on Wednesday then on to the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday before striking Cuba early this weekend.

Leonard said the forecast is definitely alarming "but the track will change over the next three or four days."

His Wall Street clients are mainly focused on three commodity trades — orange juice futures, cotton and lumber — as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Those three commodities are already spiking.

Orange juice futures for the September contract rose 12 percent in the last week as traders began thinking about the storm's possible effect on the crop. Cotton, a key crop in Georgia and the Carolinas that doesn't fare well in severely wet weather, rose 7 percent in a week. Lumber futures are also spiking on fear of damages and supply disruption. Lumber is up 5 percent in a week.

A worker picks oranges in a grove near Winter Garden, Florida.
Getty Images

Jeff Kilburg, founder of KKM Financial, said, "there's a lot of emotion in these trades, especially orange juice." He adds, "this is similar to what we saw with gasoline futures last week as Harvey zeroed in on Texas."

He said he expects orange juice will get a little bit more of a pop before the price of the commodity drops.

While orange juice, cotton and lumber rise, gasoline futures are falling after the big runup post-Harvey. The October contract for gasoline fell 2.9 percent, to $1.6969.