Bloomberg News

Traders Awake at Dawn Dodging Downed Trees Following Irene

August 29, 2011

(Updates trading volume in sixth paragraph.)

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Wall Street workers rode five to a car, dodged downed trees and left makeup for later as exchanges opened after Hurricane Irene hobbled the nation’s busiest transit system with flooding.

New York City’s subways were only partially open, while New Jersey Transit said rail service was suspended on all but one line and Metro-North trains were inoperable this morning. Some financial professionals relied on cars to reach Manhattan, the center of the world’s largest capital market -- if they came in at all.

“The hardest part of getting to work this morning was the two blocks getting out of our street because there are trees down and a lot of flooding in New Jersey,” said Duncan Niederauer, the chief executive officer of NYSE Euronext, which owns the New York Stock Exchange.

Niederauer, who lives in Somerset County, New Jersey, spoke after being dropped off by a black sport utility vehicle at Wall Street and Broadway at about 6 a.m.

“We told most of our people to stay home and be with their families, except people who are responsible for the floor operations because we thought it was important to open the exchange and have business as usual,” Niederauer said.

Trading volume for Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies as of 4:08 p.m. today was 17 percent less than the 180-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The measure rose 2.8 percent to 1,210.08, the highest level since Aug. 3.

Limited Schedules

Subways resumed limited schedules, and train lines were flooded or damaged from Connecticut to New Jersey as traders, brokers and technicians got word stock, bond and commodities would open as normal in the morning. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that commuters should prepare for a “tough” time getting to work today. Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, had ordered the evacuation of low-lying areas in the city.

The biggest stock exchange operators in the U.S. -- NYSE Euronext, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., Bats Global Markets and Direct Edge Holdings LLC -- said yesterday that they plan a normal trading session. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommended no change to bond-market schedules, and CME Group Inc. said the New York Mercantile Exchange will open.

“I left my house at 4:30 a.m., and it was 45 minutes to get in with no traffic,” Marc Peritore, who works at trading- technology firm iQmedia Networks, said at Wall and Broad streets. “I took the Holland Tunnel and just parked on the west side and walked from there. The city seemed empty. I was really surprised. The highways were really empty.”

‘Hair’s Not Done’

Susanne Petronella, a floor clerk for GI Brokerage at the NYSE, lives in the borough of Queens. She drove into the city with four other people over the Brooklyn Bridge.

“I’m usually still in bed right now,” she said in front of the NYSE before 7 a.m., while smoking a cigarette. “My hair’s not done. My makeup’s not done.”

Ridership on the New York City subway, which usually runs all day, topped 1.6 billion last year and averaged 5.1 million on weekdays, according to MTA data. The system, which began service in 1904, has 468 stations, the most anywhere in the world, according to MTA’s website.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc., whose offices are in New York’s evacuation zone, said they escaped major damage and will resume business today. Goldman Sachs’s headquarters, located along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan, was “functioning normally,” Stephen Cohen, a spokesman, said in a phone interview yesterday.

Taxis at Goldman

A police officer and men in yellow vests directed cabs today into the front driveway of 200 West Street, the headquarters of Goldman Sachs, where workers disembarked.

The building that houses Citigroup’s main trading floors at 388-390 Greenwich St. in the Tribeca area “are fully functional,” Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for the firm, said yesterday in an e-mail. American Express Co.’s headquarters, across the street from Goldman Sachs, was to remain closed today and employees of the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases were asked to work at home.

Almost a quarter of financial companies in the S&P 500 are based in New York, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Financial firms including banks, brokerages and insurers employ 437,600 people in the city, according to July data from the state Department of Labor.

‘Empty’

“The trains were empty,” said Dan Kryger, a managing director and NYSE floor trader at Benjamin & Jerold LLC. He took his usual 6:01 a.m. train on the Long Island Rail Road from Massapequa. “I wasn’t sure if they’d be running or sporadic, but it was OK.”

Phil Prothro lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, and left home at the usual time, arriving in Manhattan by PATH train.

“It was actually a pleasant commute,” said Prothro, who works at GDS International. “No problems at all. It was on time and empty, and I was expecting it to be late and full.”

He said Wall Street was more empty than it normally is.

“This is very unusual,” he said, while waiting for an egg and cheese sandwich from a cart at about 7:40 a.m. “It’s how I wish it was every day.”

--With assistance from Donal Griffin, Laura Marcinek and Nina Mehta in New York, Brian K. Sullivan in Boston and Mike Millard in San Francisco. Editors: Nick Baker, Joanna Ossinger

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Kearns in New York at jkearns3@bloomberg.net; Whitney Kisling in New York at wkisling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at nbaker7@bloomberg.net


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