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N.Y. Stock Exchange closes for second day

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NEW YORK -- Remember when John A. MacDonald was prime minister or when Jack the Ripper spread terror in London or when you first read Kaiser Wilhelm II had become German emperor?

Yes, it's been that long.

On Monday, shortly after midday, the New York Stock Exchange announced it would close stock trading for a second day Tuesday due to a once-in-a-century storm. Once-in-a-124-year storm is more apt. The last time trading was halted for two consecutive days due to weather was in 1888.

This time, instead of 12-metre-high snowdrifts, surging water threatens to crest at between two and three metres. And instead of the Blizzard of 1888, it is the more benign-sounding but equally disruptive hurricane Sandy.

"It's a monumental event, and we take it very seriously," said Larry Leibowitz, chief operating officer of NYSE Euronext, which operates the New York Stock Exchange. "It's not a hyped-up drama."

Leibowitz spoke shortly at 2 p.m. EDT after a series of conference calls with stock brokerage firms, regulators and officials during which a "consensus" emerged to close markets for a second day. As for Wednesday, he said he was "hopeful" the exchange would open.

Nasdaq, another major stock exchange, said it's optimistic, too.

As the storm approached Manhattan at midday Monday, water cascaded over seawalls near the NYSE trading floor and parts of a highway running along the island's East Side were flooded.

Areas around New York's Financial District were part of a mandatory evacuation zone.

The uncertainty generated by the storm comes at the start of a big week in the United States. This is the last full week before the Nov. 6 presidential election and culminates Friday with the release of monthly jobs data, which many analysts think could have an impact on the vote. U.S. Labor Department officials are still hopeful the report can be released on time, but they acknowledge the storm could cause a delay.

Originally, the NYSE had planned to close just its exchange floor and allow traders to buy and sell stock electronically. It decided to shut down electronic trading, too, out of concern for staff needed to help run electronic trading.

In commodity trading, the CME Group's New York trading floor was closed but electronic markets were functioning. Crude oil fell 80 cents to $85.48 in electronic trading. CME said Monday electronic trading for commodities would also be open Tuesday.

Bond trading will be closed Tuesday.

The last time the major exchanges closed for a day due to weather was on Sept. 27, 1985, when hurricane Gloria struck. That storm largely spared New York, however.

European stock markets fell. France's CAC-40 fell 0.8 per cent, Britain's FTSE fell 0.2 per cent and Germany's DAX lost 0.4 per cent. Insurers such as Munich Re, Aviva PLC and Zurich Insurance fared worse than other stocks as investors worried about the potential cost of the storm's damage.

Some companies, including Pfizer Inc. and Thomson Reuters, are postponing quarterly earnings reports scheduled for release early this week.

The Commerce Department reported Monday consumer spending increased 0.8 per cent in September, the best showing since February.

Personal income rose 0.4 per cent.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2012 B5

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