May 22, 2013
Wall Street to open Monday as storm hobbles New York
Wall Street firms prepared to open for business on Monday at least with skeletal staff, booking hotel rooms for key employees and leaning on offices in other cities as Hurricane Sandy forced the New York mass transit system to shut down, leaving tens of thousands of employees stuck at home.
Executives, traders and bankers said they expected a light trading day on Monday - and depending on the impact of the storm, possibly through Tuesday - as some offices in lower Manhattan's Financial District are in an evacuation zone and most non-critical staff were asked to work from home.
Major US stock exchanges, including NYSE Euronext, Nasdaq OMX Group and Direct Edge, and banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Citigroup Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co were all putting in place contingency plans to open for business on Monday, but that involved some firms scaling back operations.
NYSE said on Sunday afternoon that it will close its physical trading floor operations for the first time in nearly three decades due to a weather-related emergency, but would move trading of NYSE-listed stocks to its fully electronic exchange. This is also the first time NYSE has ever gone fully electronic.
Meanwhile, the exchange will evaluate on "a day-to-day basis" as to when it will reopen the floor, said Larry Leibowitz, NYSE's chief operating officer, but if forecasts are correct, the weather may worsen on Tuesday.
The decision to close the Big Board's trading floor came after a series of discussions with floor brokers, employees, city officials and others. Leibowitz, who lives in lower Manhattan, but not in the evacuation zone, said he would be showing up for work on Monday.
"I will be there ... I will probably be singing a solo on the trading floor," he said.
Hurricane Sandy is expected to slam into the US East Coast on Monday night, bringing torrential rains, high winds, severe flooding and power outages. The rare "super storm," created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, could be the biggest to hit the US mainland, forecasters said.
The scramble on Wall Street started early as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the subway, bus and rail system in the city begin to close at 7 pm EDT on Sunday (2300 GMT).
About 8.5 million commuters utilize the Metropolitan Transit Authority's transit lines daily, meaning most Wall Street employees would be unable to get to work. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also closed public schools and ordered an evacuation of 375,000 people in coastal areas, including downtown offices of banks such as Citigroup.
The Street's contingency plans face several unknowns. The major exchanges and most big trading firms have alternate trading facilities if downtown Manhattan is inaccessible, but the storm's wide path may affect a number of sites in the New York metropolitan area. Authorities have warned of possible widespread power outages that could last for days.
Wall Street was spared the worst of Hurricane Irene in August last year. Officials had feared Hurricane Irene would flood lower Manhattan and cripple business in the world's financial capital, but the flooding was minor and there were no major disruptions at the exchanges.