NYSE trading floor partially reopens after coronavirus closure

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo donned a face mask and rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, marking the partial reopening of the trading floor at the iconic 11 Wall Street building, which had been closed since March 23 due to the coronavirus.

While some traders were back, it was not business as usual on Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s NYSE floor.

“When we paused for the past two months, we took the opportunity to learn a lot about this virus and what we learned is how to protect ourselves,” NYSE President Stacey Cunningham told CNBC in an interview.

“The protections have been designed to prevent an outbreak so that likelihood of infection passing around the floor is greatly diminished,” she said.

The 100 or so traders, regulatory, and operational staff – about a quarter of the usual number – who headed into the building in lower Manhattan were asked to avoid public transportation and were screened for signs of the virus at the door, where they also had to sign a liability waiver.

New York City has been hit hard, with more than 20,000 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and many businesses remain closed as the most populated U.S. city remains under lockdown.

“As trading on this iconic floor recommences, New York is showing the nation that we will lead the lead way,” said Cuomo.

Most of the NYSE’s designated market makers, who oversee trading in the exchange’s 2,200 listed companies, are still working from home, as are most exchange employees.

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The NYSE floor is the last of its kind in the United States, as a slew of all-electronic competitors have eaten away at the Big Board’s once-dominant market share.

The NYSE did not experience any major disruptions during its electronic-only trading stint, even with record volumes and volatility, prompting rivals to say the floor, where stocks have changed hands since 1792, has no real utility.

The NYSE says recent data show less volatility and tighter bid-ask spreads for NYSE-listed stocks when floor brokers are present, translating into millions of dollars a day in savings for investors.

Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Megan Davies and Nick Zieminski

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