Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after it reopened on Wednesday. (AFP)
Traffic is snarled, streets flooded and power out in many parts of the city, but the New York Stock Exchange opened without hitch today after an historic two-day shutdown, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.
Bloomberg rang the opening bell at 9.30am (local time), right on schedule, as stock traders cheered from the iconic trading floor below, falsely rumoured to be flooded, but dry Wednesday morning, and festive.
“It’s good for the city, good for country, it’s good for everyone to get back to work,” the New York City mayor told CNBC moments later while leaving the exchange building at 11 Wall Street. The market got off to a good start after the shutdown. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points to 13,125 in the first hour of trading.
The last time the exchange closed because of weather for two consecutive days was during the Blizzard of 1888 — 124 years ago. The exchange is running today on backup generators since power is nonexistent in large parts of downtown Manhattan.
“It’s been very smooth,” Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, told CNBC from the floor of the exchange. “The market-making community is more than staffed enough to be open.” He added: “We jokingly said this morning we may be the only building south of Midtown that has water, lights and food.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged down a fraction of a point to 1,411. The Nasdaq composite lost 16 points to 2,971. General Motors jumped $1.46 to $24.74 after beating most analysts’ profit forecasts for the third quarter.
At least 64 people have died in the storm surge.
Hobbled & flooded
Still hobbled by power failures and waterlogged transit, the New York region started to restore some transportation services today as it struggled to return to daily life during a daunting period of recovery.
The extent of the challenge was apparent during the morning commute, which quickly froze to gridlock. People who normally took the subway or regional rail lines were forced into taxis or their own cars, clogging the streets.
Drivers reported delays of hours, with vehicles lined up at the major crossings and at parking garages. But the transportation situation could soon improve.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced this afternoon that limited service would be restored to two commuter rail lines for the city’s suburbs — the Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road. He also said limited subway service would resume starting tomorrow, with a bus bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but no service below 34th Street.
Cuomo said a major problem continued to be water in the subway tunnels, as well as in the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which connects Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Getting water out of the tunnels, he said, was “one of the main orders of business”.
More than 4,000 cabs, which for the moment could be shared among harried commuters, offered another partial lifeline to those cut off by the continued suspension of subway service. Some ferries were expected to be crossing between New Jersey and Manhattan.
In a briefing, Cuomo said that the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was still closed, contributing to the high volume of traffic, and that traffic signals were still out. Power restoration was being worked on. The greatest challenge was on Long Island, and utility workers were being brought in from upstate to help.
State courtrooms in the city were also reopening. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York began reopening many closed roads and bridges yesterday. Yet schools, parks and East River tunnels remained closed in the city, and many residents up and down the mid-Atlantic still stumbled through their morning routines with candles, flashlights or in darkness.
Amtrak said it would provide modified Northeast Regional service from Newark to points south.