The New York Stock Exchange has announced that it will close its physical stock trading floor and move to strictly electronic trading, beginning with the opening of trading on Monday, March 23. This will mark the first time in more than 100 years that the physical floor of the stock exchange will be closed while electronic trading continues.
NYSE President Stacey Cunningham told CNBC that the impetus for the historic change was that two traders who frequented the floor tested positive for COVID-19 after the exchange started implementing regular medical screening of entrants last week in response to coronavirus fears.
"We implemented a number a number of safety precautions over the past couple of weeks, and starting on Monday this week we started pre-emptive testing of employees and screening of anyone who came into the building. ... A couple of those test cases have come back positive," Cunningham said.
The stock market has closed on a number of occasions over the years in response to national tragedies and severely disruptive events like 9/11, but this will mark the first time the physical floor has closed independently while electronic trading remains open.
Cunningham insisted that neither of the traders who tested positive actually accessed the floor of the exchange, but stated that the floor was being shut down as a precautionary measure.
The stock market has fluctuated wildly since the coronavirus pandemic hit, as the market struggles to predict the duration and depth of the financial impact of measures implemented to halt the spread of coronavirus. The market closed below at below 20,000 Wednesday for the first time since the opening days of Donald Trump's presidency in February 2017.
As noted by CNBC, the physical floor has been less frequently used by traders in recent years as electronic trading becomes more popular, but NYSE officials have consistently maintained that the physical floor remains important to the function of the market. Other trading indexes such as NASDAQ do not have a physical trading floor at all.