How Weather Affects the Stock Market: The Winter of Our Discontent?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While the severe weather appears to have dampened consumer spending and stymied job growth the past few months, Wall Street remained immune.

Retailers took the brunt of the extreme weather and storms, halting consumer spending as employers and potential home buyers also took a pause.

The volatility on Wall Street has not been a surprise to many experts and is likely only temporary as the markets had already priced in the effects of the frigid weather.

"The markets are insulated," said Gemma Godfrey, head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald. "Markets have priced this in so there has been little downside reaction in the markets to weather disrupted data and less upside room when the weather warms."

Several weeks of lackluster economic data have been attributed to the particularly cold weather. Retail sales for February rose slightly by 0.3%, exceeding expectations of a 0.2% increase. The number of people claiming benefits for unemployment declined by 9,000 to 315,000, which was more than predicted.

The winter season has had an effect on a majority of the United States, even if some of the states did not experience snow, pushing commodity prices such as crude oil and food higher, said David Fiorenza, economist at Villanova School of Business in Villanova, Penn.

"California's lack of rain will affect its farming industry later this year with higher prices and lower outputs," he said. "Coming out of winter by April, there will still be effects of higher prices for products due to natural weather patterns. Increases in gas prices and other energy will affect spring and winter economic activity as well."

Retail sales and other economic activity will increase as the weather becomes warmer in the East and Northeast portions, Fiorenza said. The real indicator of economic growth is housing starts or building permits for residential and commercial development.