Wall Street sends workers into storm


US stock exchanges and Wall Street banks are sending employees into Manhattan today to stay in hotels and co-workers' homes, as markets prepare to open for business tomorrow even as Hurricane Sandy brings public transportation to a halt.

Hurricane Sandy is expected to slam into the East Coast on Monday night, bringing torrential rains, high winds, severe flooding and power outages, forecasters said.

The rare "super storm," created by an Arctic jetstream wrapping itself around a tropical storm, could be the biggest to hit the US mainland.

New York's subway, bus and rail systems will suspend service by 7pm which means there will be no public transportation into or within the city. About 8.5 million commuters use the Metropolitan Transit Authority's rail, bus and subway lines daily.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg closed public schools and ordered an evacuation of 375,000 people in coastal areas including the Battery Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, City Island in the Bronx and Staten Island.

Spokesmen for NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX Group said they still planned to open exchanges for trading on Monday, but would monitor the situation for any changes.

The New York Stock Exchange has arranged accommodations for essential staff near its lower-Manhattan headquarters, while other employees have been encouraged to work from home or alternate locations, said a person familiar with the situation.

"Everybody on Wall Street has hotels booked for essential personnel," this person said, adding that the stock exchange would need several hundred people, compared to its usual 1,000, on the floor to keep trading going.

The major exchanges and most big trading firms have alternate trading facilities if downtown Manhattan is inaccessible, but the storm's wide path may affect a number of sites in the New York metropolitan area. Authorities have warned of possible widespread power outages that could last for days.

"The word going around the floor on Friday was people should expect this to happen. In the event the exchange does not open, they will trade electronically though," said Ken Polcari, managing director for ICAP Equities.

"If that happened, it's probably going to be very muted volume," he said.

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs, whose office is located within the evacuation area, said the firm has plans in place to ensure the safety of its people and that operations continue. Representatives of other large financial institutions, such as Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, described similar plans.