The New York Stock Exchange is hoping to revive this city's financial district with a triumphant reopening Monday after a four-session shutdown, even as the scene outside promises anything but a normal trading day.
Swaths of lower Manhattan remained without power and telephone service Sunday evening, and the damage from Tuesday's terror attack was keeping hundreds of financial firms out of their offices indefinitely.
Some buildings around Wall Street were still marred by broken windows and blankets of dust. Diesel generators sat on sidewalks across the financial district, their thick power lines snaking into office buildings. Busy phone technicians guided panel trucks loaded with fresh equipment through the streets.
The wounded transportation system promised to make the morning commute an adventure for the tens of thousands of workers expected to converge on Wall Street Monday.
With so much work to be done clearing away debris, restoring utilities and ensuring the subways, buses and ferries would run, no one could say for sure that stocks would indeed resume trading at 9:30 a.m. EDT as planned.
Yet nearly everyone connected with the markets spoke confidently Sunday. And at the stock exchange, its facade cleared of ash and draped with an enormous American flag, officials said all systems are go.
"The exchange really looks ready," said Richard Frey, a broker for Prime Executions Inc., who visited the trading floor Sunday. "There will be firms that aren't ready to go, but the market is ready and everything is working well enough, all things considered."
Monday's trading will be more than symbolic. "People really plan to be doing business," Frey said.
To see that through, the financial world has needed to reconstruct an enormous volume of data lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center. That proved to be less of a task than it appeared in the immediate aftermath.
Most affected financial firms routinely backed up critical information on computer files secured at offsite locations. So once the exchange opens, accurate records should be no impediment to trading, experts predict.
Of course, that trading could be decidedly downbeat. Most market watchers warn that pent-up selling pressure is seeking a release.
"The market has to open down because we've added a whole new element of uncertainty on many fronts," said David Hale, Chicago-based chief economist for Zurich Financial Services.
"The airline and travel industry are each 1 percent of gross national product, and they're going to be off very sharply," he said.
Insurance stocks may fade
Insurance stocks are in for a sell-off as well, many experts predict. The market overall will be under pressure from overseas markets that declined last week when U.S. stocks weren't trading. That pressure continued late Sunday, with Japanese stock markets sharply lower.
After an initial downturn, which could trigger trading halts imposed after the 1987 market crash, some analysts are predicting stocks will rally, in part as a patriotic gesture by individual and institutional investors.
James Bianco of Bianco Research in Barrington, Ill., noted that the Dow Jones industrial average, which will be the focus of attention, contains no especially vulnerable transportation or travel-industry stocks.
Indeed, major technology stocks, such as Dow components International Business Machines, Intel and Microsoft, could rise on the prospect of substantial government spending on defense- and communications-related technology.
Most market watchers expect the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates in the next week or two, perhaps as soon as Monday, and few see any risk of inflation hurting the economy.
Increased government spending and that flood of funds from the Fed could buoy prospects considerably. As Gregory Nie, an independent market analyst based in Chicago, put it: "Don't bet against Santa Claus."
Besides, the stock market already has taken a substantial hit in the past 18 months, so presumably much of the speculative excess already has blown off, Nie said.
Still, all that financial fuel will take time to stoke the nation's economy.
"Things are going to be really on fire during the second, third and fourth quarter of next year," said Joel Stern, co-founder of the corporate advisory firm Stern Stewart & Co.
Break could be a blessing
As for the short term, the four-session suspension of trading -- the longest hiatus since the Depression -- could be a blessing, since it gave investors a chance to calm themselves, said Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York exchange.
Late Sunday, the nation's best-known long-term investor, Warren Buffett, told CBS' "60 Minutes" that he will not be selling Monday.
"If prices fall significantly, there's some things I might buy," Buffett said.
Naturally, if the market fails to open, holding might be the only option.
Con Edison officials said about 9,300 customers remained without power Sunday night in lower Manhattan. Verizon, the largest local phone company, could not give an estimate of service disruptions.
On the afternoon before the market was set to reopen, police and military personnel in the financial district were still checking identification at intersections, their faces covered by respirators to guard against smoke and dust.
Authorities allowed only a trickle of residents, office workers and shopkeepers to visit buildings in preparation for the return to work.
On Monday, extraordinary measures are in store for commuters -- and companies such as Merrill Lynch were e-mailing their workers at home this weekend with transportation tips.
The City of New York issued a page-long "Getting to the NYSE" guide.
For the first time in generations, New York will operate ferry service carrying passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan. No passenger cars will be permitted on the streets near the stock exchange, but shuttle buses will be available.
Many commuters are expected to arrive in the area by train, then walk to office buildings. The stock exchange has told employees to bring positive ID -- and display it at all times once inside the building.
Meantime, many firms that established temporary offices last week planned to return cautiously, as operations downtown reached full speed.
"We are operating at about 90 percent, so that is good," said George Maragos, president of Securities Dealing Systems Inc. He and other staff recovered four critical computer servers Sunday from offices on Broadway and would be operating for several days at least at other sites, Maragos said.
"We are some of the lucky ones," he said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times