Here we are halfway through hurricane season and we’ve seen very little activity. In fact, peak season is coming up here in September, so if we can get through another month without a major storm, investors need to consider the ramifications of an average season after last year’s devastation.
The prime beneficiaries of a light-to-average hurricane season would be the re-insurers who decided to continue offering coverage, albeit at much higher premiums, in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic regions even in the wake of Katrina. Higher premium income and lower claim payouts make for solid profitability. The catastrophic loss re-insurers are still down considerably from their highs after the Katrina backlash, so upside remains fairly meaningful. It is true, however, that it only takes one storm to ruin everyone’s year.
Without major storms disrupting the nation’s energy supply, we might also have seen the peak in oil for now. Any spikes in natural gas might also be avoided in the short term. The future direction of the energy markets will then likely be determined by how cold of a winter we get. Last year a mild winter brought natural gas prices down considerably, from a Katrina high of $15 down to under $6. Colder weather this year could serve to boost natural gas prices back up as supplies would be diminished greatly. Aside from geopolitical events, it appears that crude oil prices have peaked, at least for now, as summer driving season will be coming to an end.
So, just to recap. Take a look at the catastrophic re-insurers, and if you are interested in energy, there is probably more upside in natural gas than crude oil over the next quarter or two.