Markets halt after World Trade Center hit

The stock market came to halt this morning after two separate planes crashed into the World Trade Center in what President Bush called an apparent terrorist attack.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade suspended trading for the day at 9:15 a.m. Merc stock index futures had been delayed after the New York Stock Exchange delayed its equity index market opening.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange and Chicago Stock Exchange also suspended operations. Local brokerage firms closed their offices for the day.

"The fewer people in this building, the better, until we can better ascertain what’s going on," said Mark Cermak, a senior trader with O’Connor and Co., 401 S. LaSalle, a member of the CBOT board.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt said the U.S. securities markets have decided not to open for trading after several aircraft crashed into buildings in New York and Washington.

Pitt said in a statement that trading will resume "as soon as it is practicable to do so."

Only a skeleton staff will remain in the Merc Chicago offices at 30 S. Wacker Dr. "We are all outside," said one Merc stock index futures trader. "People are leaving fast."

The New York Stock Exchange was evacuated and trading was canceled, possibly for the entire day. The World Trade Center and nearby World Financial Center were also evacuated. Both are home to many brokerages and investment firms.

Nasdaq postponed trading twice before exchanges agreed not to open. The American Stock Exchange and the New York Mercantile Exchange also closed. The World Trade Center and nearby World Financial Center, which houses the NYMEX, were evacuated.

Two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York as office workers began work this morning, causing huge explosions, eyewitnesses said. Both towers later collapsed on television broadcasts.

The landmark in New York financial district, where thousands of people work, was the scene of a bombing in 1993, were burning after the crashes. Several top financial services firms have offices in the World Trade Center, including Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group Inc., Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank AG.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said it is open and operating and that its discount window will provide liquidity to financial markets as needed.

Foreign exchange markets were open, with the dollar sharply lower in thin trading.

The price of oil company stocks rocketed and European stock markets sank after a double explosion in the U.S. World Trade Center sent Wall Street futures into freefall.

The pan-European FTSE Eurotop 300 was down 4.21 percent -- a marked reversal from earlier gains of more than 1.5 percent -- while the DJ Stoxx 50 tumbled 4.11 percent. Overseas markets were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei stock average ended the day up nearly 1.0 percent. Germany’s Dax index was down 0.9 percent, France’s CAC-40 was off 0.1, and Britain’s FT-SE 100 rose 1.0 percent.

Equity futures plunged before the scheduled NYSE opening. September futures for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank 15.50 points to 1,080.20, while Nasdaq 100 futures plunged 32.50 points to 1,338. September futures for the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 100 points to 9,530.

London Brent crude futures surged $1.75 a barrel on Tuesday after an apparent terrorist attack that saw two planes fly deliberately into New York’s World Trade Center. Brent added 50 cents on the initial news and then extended gains to $1.75, taking crude to $29.20, the highest price since mid-June. Brent by 1333 GMT had subsided back to $28.40, up 95 cents on the day. Oil trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange was suspended.