The New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor is reopening today, but don’t expect it to be business as usual.
It has been closed for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This moment comes as we begin working together across America to restart our economy,” NYSE president Stacey Cunningham wrote on the exchange’s website. “We are starting cautiously, with new safety measures to limit the strain on the health-care system and the risk to those who work beneath our roof. Now more than ever, we offer our #gratitude to those on the front lines during this historic moment.”
Gone will be the iconic images of intense, jacketed-starers pointing fingers in the air, grimacing as they looked at the many electronic computer screens around the littered space.
Here’s what you’ll see instead, as outlined by Cunningham in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece:
- The majority of the so-called “designated market makers” won’t physically return to the floor but rather continue to do their work remotely.
- Floor brokers will wear masks.
- Only a few of the normally throngs of floor brokers will be allowed on the floor, as it reopens.
- They’ll abide by social-distancing rules, “enforced by a new choreography that defines the space where each person may work on the floor.”
- People coming to the floor aren’t allowed to use mass transit.
- The NYSE will screen and take the temperatures of all floor brokers and visitors when they arrive.
- The trading floor will be throughly cleaned and sanitized each day.
- The rest of the building will be mostly vacant, as other employees continue to work from home and events are on hold.
“I’m slightly surprised that they decided to open the floor again. Most exchanges nowadays are done electronically,” said Wall Street historian John Steele Gordon. “They don’t need the floor, but they keep it open for nostalgia and a backdrop for the TV reports.”
On March 18, the exchange announced that starting five days later, it would move to fully electronic trading, shutting down its world-renowned trading floor.
At the time, Cunningham called the decision precautionary.
During the closure, the NYSE maintained its normal trading hours of 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Now that the trading floor is back to normal (well, almost), it’s going to send a message to the country and to the world, according to Gordon.
“The symbolism is the important part. ‘We’re opening up for business,'” he said. “It can’t hurt and it certainly can help.”
COVID-19 was hardly the first time the NYSE closed. It was shuttered for the Blizzard of 1888, at the start of World War I in 1914, for former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral in 2004, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and for Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The stock exchange was launched in 1792 with 24 brokers signing what was called the Buttonwood Agreement. It’s since grown into a $28 trillion titan.