The exchange posted the news on its website and said “additional information will follow as soon as possible”. The halt began at 11.32am ET. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI said there was no sign of suspicious activity and no law enforcement action was needed.
Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation, and both the White House and the Treasury Department are monitoring the shutdown.
The NYSE Group, which includes the New York Stock Exchange, has suspended trading in all securities, worth a total of $28tn, because of technical difficulties.
The NYSE has been hit by technical difficulties in the past but the scale of the closure was unprecedented. A technical glitch was reportedly identified before trading began but had been resolved before the opening bell for trading was rung at 9.30am.
“We’re currently experiencing a technical issue that we’re working to resolve as quickly as possible,” a representative of the exchange said in an email. “We are doing our utmost to produce a swift resolution, communicate thoroughly and transparently, and ensure a timely and orderly market re-open.”
Also known as the Big Board, the NYSE is the world’s largest stock market and home to many of the world’s largest companies including AT&T, Bank of America, Ford and General Electric.
It is one of the biggest stock market suspensions since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The US’s other large exchanges remained open. In a statement, a spokesman for the technology-heavy Nasdaq stock exchange said it was operating normally. NYSE securities can be traded on other exchanges, including Nasdaq.
The halt came as China’s stock markets continued their free fall and the Greek debt crisis continued to rattle European investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 213 points when trading was halted, a fall of 1.2%.
China’s stock markets have fallen more than 30% in the last three weeks after soaring 150% in the last year. China’s regulators have blamed “irrational selling” and “panic sentiment”.
The trading halt could not have been more poorly timed for Wall Street. Earnings reports start this week with the release of Alcoa’s second quarter report on Wednesday afternoon. The Federal Reserve will also release minutes of its latest meeting on Wednesday, a meeting where the central bank discussed raising interest rates for the first time since the recession.
Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank, said he initially worried that China’s woes had spread to the US when he heard the news and was relieved that it appeared to be a technical glitch. “That said it doesn’t add a lot of confidence in the markets when investors don’t have a lot to begin with,” he said.
The exchange’s woes came on the same day that United Airlines grounded all of its US flights after a computer glitch. The Wall Street Journal’s website also went down due to a technical issue at the same time as the NYSE suspended trading.
At about 1 pm – an hour and a half after the trading halted – one of the NYSE’s traders walked over to the barricades outside the exchange’s Wall Street headquarters. As he strolled over reporters flocked to him.
“What? Do you want my autograph now?” he asked. “I can’t comment.”
“What’s scary is you asking me all these questions.”
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