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NY Stock Exchange Reopens for First Time in Two Months

May 26, 2020 by Dan McCue
In this image provided by the New York Stock Exchange, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, applauds as he rings the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange with with New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham, right, Tuesday, May 26, 2020 in New York. The NYSE allowed a limited number of traders back to the floor with social distancing guidelines and face masks. (Courtney Crow/New York Stock Exchange via AP)

The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened Tuesday, and though it was largely seen as a symbolic first step toward economic recovery, the financial markets opened with a surge of optimism.

In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 600 points, or 2.4%, while the S&P 500 rose 63 points, or 2%, rising above 3,000 for the first time since the early days of the pandemic.

A masked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has presided over the state with the highest death toll since the virus took hold in the United States, rang the bell to set off trading.

“They didn’t reopen the way it was,” he said during his daily briefing a short time later. “They reopened smarter.”

The exchange’s iconic trading floor has been shuttered since March 23 as cases of the coronavirus in New York skyrocketed.

On Tuesday, a reduced number of traders were allowed on the floor, all of them required to wear masks and to adhere to the six-foot social distancing rules now familiar to all Americans. Traders also had to sign a waiver limiting the exchange’s coronavirus liability.

Those entering the NYSE will have their temperatures taken before being allowed to enter the space now divided by plexiglass barriers.

All who had business at the stock exchange Tuesday were asked to avoid public transportation when traveling to and from the exchange in lower Manhattan.

Tuesday morning’s rally took place as The Conference Board reported that U.S. consumer confidence inched up this month and showed signs of stabilizing.

The business group’s consumer confidence index rose to 86.6 this month from 85.7 in April. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected consumer confidence of 82.3 in May.

“Following two months of rapid decline, the free-fall in Confidence stopped in May,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement.

“Short-term expectations moderately increased as the gradual re-opening of the economy helped improve consumers’ spirits.”

As of Tuesday, all 50 states had begun easing their stay-at-home restrictions and allowing businesses to open their doors again, even as some parts of the country see no drop-off in confirmed coronavirus cases.

There is also some optimism about the race for a vaccine.

In hard-hit New York, Cuomo reported a one-day total Tuesday of 73 deaths, the lowest figure in months, and down from a peak of close to 800.

“In this absurd new reality that is good news,” he said.

Still, the World Health Organization said that the world remains mired in only the first stage of the pandemic, putting a damper on hopes for a speedy global economic rebound.

“Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s executive director.

Back in the 1990s, the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange was typically crowded with several thousand brokers engaging in trades. Since the advent of electronic trading from computer terminals, the number of traders on the floors has declined, rarely topping 500 floor traders a day in the weeks before the pandemic.

About a quarter of those were on hand when the market opened, but their presence was clearly enjoyed by New York’s governor, who applauded them and gave several a thumbs-up before he rang the opening bell.

Later, at his daily briefing, the governor said, “Wearing a mask is now cool. I believe it’s cool.” 

“You don’t have to have a boring mask like my mask. I’m a boring guy,” he added. “They have color masks, they have masks that say things. Some people coordinate their outfits with the color of their mask.”

Cuomo said New Yorkers should encourage others around them to wear masks, too.

“That does not mean when someone doesn’t wear a mask we should be rude to that person or be obnoxious to that person, but this has got to be part of every New Yorker’s fashion and design and clothing and outfitting,” he said.

But he quickly struck a sober note, warning that if people simply went back to not wearing masks, not washing their hands or maintaining their social distance, the coronavirus would spread anew.

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