News Column

Trading to Restart as Storm Damage Assessed

Oct. 30, 2012

Gretel Johnston, dpa

stock reports

Trading on Wall Street will resume Wednesday as insurance companies and government officials begin adding up the damages from the superstorm Sandy in the north-east US.

Preliminary projections say damages from Monday and Tuesday's disasters could reach into the tens of billions of dollars.

Both the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq will be open and operating normally Wednesday, the two markets said. The two-day closure was the longest weather-related shutdown in more than a century.

The heads of the markets decided to close them as Sandy approached Sunday out of concern for employee safety. New York City experienced extensive flooding and its public transportation system is shut down - possibly for days - due to the storm, which hit hardest in New York City and New Jersey. Sandy made landfall Monday evening.

NYSE spokesman Robert Rendine said the exchange's trading floor and building were not damaged by Sandy, a hybrid superstorm that started out as a hurricane before slamming the US mid-Atlantic East Coast as a post-tropical cyclone.

The chief operating officer of NYSE, Larry Leibowitz, said the headquarters were running on backup power and would continue using it all week if necessary, according to Bloomberg news service. Wall Street is near areas of Manhattan that were deluged by a record 4.2-metre sea surge.

Traders were eager to get back into action especially before the end of the month, a time when many stock funds and investors measure the status of their holdings.

The storm damaged rail lines, subway stations, power lines, airports, roads, beaches and buildings in the public space alone. Countless homes and personal property such as cars were damaged in a 16-state region from South Carolina north to Maine and west to Ohio.

In one of the worst results of storm-related property loss, in the borough of Queens, a fire fanned by Sandy's winds destroyed at least 80 homes. Aerial photos showed the gambling paradise of Atlantic City covered with water and with sand heaped among partially destroyed holiday cottages.

Losses are expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars, reports said, quoting insurance experts. Charles Watson, research and development director at Kinetic Analysis Corporation, said only between 7 billion dollars and 8 billion dollars of the total would be insured.

The forecasting firm IHS Global Insight told Fox News Sandy would end up causing about 20 billion dollars in property damage and 10 billion dollars to 30 billion dollars more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the US.

The cost of electrical outages and the expense incurred by travellers stranded by the grounding of more than 16,000 flights was impossible to calculate.

Damage to public infrastructure would be similar to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, said Watson. Katrina was the nation's most costly natural disaster with an estimated 41.1 billion dollars in insured property losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That figure does not include about 20 billion dollars in flood damage and damage to off-shore oil rigs.

Factory and refinery closures due to the storms would also count among the economic losses. The closure of casinos in Atlantic City would have an impact.

The storm delayed the release of the consumer confidence index by the private Conference Board, which compiles the figure for release on a monthly basis. The board said the data would be released Thursday. That will be one day ahead of the release of the US unemployment figure.

Both figures take on special significance in the final days before the November 6 presidential elections, where the stagnant economy plays a major role.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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