Federal Reserve

If hurricane damage is 'severe enough,' the Fed could actually lower rates, says strategist Mark Grant

Key Points
  • At the very least, the Fed is going to be forced to put any further interest rates this year on hold due to the costs of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, says Mark Grant.
  • The closely watched contrarian says the federal government as well as state and local governments in Florida and Texas will be under pressure.
  • Kevin O'Leary, chairman of O'Shares and a "Shark Tank" investor, agrees with Grant concerning the storm aftermath's possible impact on the Fed's rate policy.
Fed may even lower rates after massive storms: Hilltop Securities' Mark Grant

When the federal, state and local governments in Florida and Texas total the bills from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the Federal Reserve is going to be forced to put any further interest rates this year on hold, closely watched contrarian strategist Mark Grant told CNBC on Monday.

"With the cost of Harvey and now the cost of Irma, I think there's going to be a market reaction," said the chief strategist at Hilltop Securities, arguing government officials will be under intense pressure because of the cost of emergency and recovery services. "I think the Fed is going to stop, meaning the Fed is not going to call for any more rate hikes now."

In fact, Grant said on "Squawk Box," if the storm damage is "severe enough," the central bank may lower rates, so governments can get access to cheaper borrowing costs for the rebuilding efforts. Perhaps, that's why U.S. stock futures were up more than 100 points in Monday's premarket trading.

Goldman Sachs said Hurricane Harvey, which deluged Houston with days of torrential rain and flooding last month, is expected to be one of the costliest disasters in postwar U.S. history, and its aftermath is likely to be a drag on third-quarter economic growth by a full percentage point.

Kevin O'Leary: I'm having a hard time taking money out of stocks

Kevin O'Leary, chairman of O'Shares EFT Investments and an investor on "Shark Tank," agreed with Grant concerning the storm aftermath's possible impact on the Fed's rate policy.

"Why in the world would they want to put any resistance into the recovery, which is what a rate hike is," O'Leary told "Squawk Box" in a later interview on Monday. "I'm having a very hard time taking money out of stocks right now ... particularly when you start to think about the Fed not raising rates as a result of what's happened in the economy."

"I'd say there's a 50-50 chance we will not get another rate hike this year. If that's the case, you're going to love small- and mid- and large-cap stocks," he said.

Meanwhile, Hilltop's Grant said power outages were preventing him from sending out his daily market commentary, which he said goes to about 5,000 institutions in 48 countries.

Like many Florida residents, Grant evacuated Fort Lauderdale, along the state's eastern shore about 34 miles north of Miami. He said he went north and inland to Ocala. "It's normally about a 3½ hour trip from Fort Lauderdale to Ocala, where I am now in midstate. It took eight hours to get here with my three dogs."

At the rest areas along the highways, he said, "There were 600, 700, 800 cars trying to get in" for gas and food. "It was a pretty horrendous experience."

Grant does not expect to get back into his Fort Lauderdale house anytime soon. "There's no power in the whole neighborhood around it. I've been informed I can't get to my house, even if I wanted to try to get there, because the streets are four and five feet flooded."

I'm stuck," he said.

Hurricane Irma continued to hammer Florida early Monday, but the storm was losing strength. Once ranked as one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, Irma was about 60 miles north of Tampa, with carrying maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Irma knocked out power to nearly 4 million homes and businesses when it made landfall on Sunday, threatening millions more as it crept up the state's west coast.

Georgia could be Irma's next target, hitting the southwestern part of that state by Monday afternoon. It could dump up to 20 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

— CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace and Reuters contributed to this report.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."