Hurricane Harvey did for the auto industry what record profits for automakers, rising volumes for auctions and increasing business for dealerships' highly profitable service-and-parts business had failed to do: Make Wall Street happy.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co., KAR Auction Services Inc. and the publicly traded dealership groups all had their stock prices jump last week in the wake of Harvey's devastation.
Put aside, if you can, the human cost of the disaster. I could say that being callous about human suffering is one of Wall Street's enduring characteristics, or I could say that Wall Street has a different set of values than you and I.
What the stock market cares about is business prospects several, often many, months away. And it liked what it saw in Harvey's path of destruction.
Maybe you saw families flooded out of the Houston homes. Cars swept off highways. Dealership lots that were inundated.
Wall Street saw hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks that will have to be replaced in the nation's third-largest market for pickups, the most profitable vehicles that automakers build.
It saw vehicles that will have to go to KAR Auction Services' and Copart's salvage auctions, as insurance companies seek to recoup some of their losses by selling flood-damaged vehicles for parts.
It saw the equivalent of a mini-Cash-for-Clunkers program taking used vehicles out of the market and thus partially offsetting the wave of off-lease vehicles that has been coming into the market and putting downward pressure on prices.
So GM and Ford's stock price each rose more than 5 percent between Aug. 24 and Sept. 1, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 0.9 percent. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' stock price rose 7.3 percent, on top of the run-up earlier in August when China's Great Wall expressed interest in buying Jeep.
Among the public dealership groups, Group 1, whose Houston headquarters were unscathed, rose 12 percent, while AutoNation, which gets roughly a quarter of its revenue from Texas, rose 8.1 percent. Sonic rose 11 percent, Asbury 7.1 percent, and CarMax 6.9 percent.
KAR Auction Services' stock rose a more modest 2 percent, and Copart's 2.6 percent, but their prices had been climbing since early August, when presumably the savvy investors started betting that Harvey would strike land.
On Tuesday morning, after the Labor Day holiday, things are beginning the slow, long return to normal in Houston. And on Wall Street, Ford and GM were flat, while the dealership groups were mixed: Group 1, CarMax and AutoNation up, and others down.
I figure Wall Street is already eying Hurricane Irma off the coast of Florida.
News Editor James B. Treece oversees Automotive News' coverage of auto retailing.