With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ringing the opening bell at 9:30 a.m. EDT, the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange reopened Tuesday morning for the first time since closing on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stocks surged in early morning trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up over 500 points in early trading Tuesday on optimism around declining death rates from the coronavirus, the development of new potential vaccines, and the gradual reopening of state economies.
The number of deaths from the virus has been gradually declining and dropped on Sunday to the lowest daily number in the United States since March. However, the death toll is expected to reach a grim milestone this week, topping 100,000. And while stay-at-home orders have seemed to slow the spread, the virus is still not contained in the US.
Meanwhile, all 50 U.S. states have reopened to some extent -- some more than others. States like Alabama, for example, have reopened bars and restaurants, hair salons, gyms, retail stores, among other venues, with certain restrictions. Other places, like Massachusetts, have only opened beaches and parks, along with manufacturing facilities, some offices, and retail outlets with curbside pickup only.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, beaches were crowded all along the coasts, and at lakes and ponds across the country, with social distancing restrictions in place in many locales.
At the NYSE, owned by the International Exchange (NYSE:ICE), the trading floor reopened with some key changes in place. Only one-quarter of the typical number of traders will be allowed on the floor, and all must wear masks. Further, plexiglass partitions have been installed to keep traders apart and they must adhere to social distancing rules. In addition, they are asked not to use public transportation. Also, market makers, who oversee trading of the 2,200 stocks listed on the exchange, will not be on the floor and will continue to work remotely.
"Today, May 26, marks the reopening of the NYSE trading floor, following its temporary closure two months ago in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic," NYSE President Stacy Cunningham said Tuesday in a statement posted on the NYSE web site. "This moment comes as we begin working together across America to restart our economy. We are starting cautiously, with new safety measures to limit the strain on the health-care system and the risk to those who work beneath our roof."
That optimism, tinged with caution, is felt throughout the economy. Social distancing rules helped to slow the spread and enabled the reopening of economies.
Now, the concern is seeing a new rise in cases. This has already been seen in some states since the reopening, including North Carolina, which reported the highest single day spike in cases on Saturday.
While the market is up today, and optimism is higher, uncertainty remains as we move into the summer and a possible resurgence in the fall. The key, said Governor Cuomo in his daily COVID-19 briefing from the NYSE floor Tuesday, is to take a smart approach to reopen, as the NYSE has done. That, Cuomo said, will be the key to moving forward in this new normal.