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On July 8, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shut down for nearly four hours, without warning. A "technical issue" temporarily halted trading from 11:32 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. ET.
But the unexpected closing that rattled investors was actually just one in more than 400 "special closings" in the exchange's 223-year history.
Exactly what can close the NYSE?
Under normal circumstances, the NYSE operates Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET. NYSE Arca is also open from 4:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Most U.S. stock exchanges follow the NYSE holiday calendar in regard to days when the market is closed or observing abbreviated hours. But in addition to the days noted on the holiday calendar, the markets sometimes also close for special occasions or emergencies.
Let's take a look at some notable special and emergency closings that put Wednesday's glitch into perspective...
A Historical Look at What Can Close the NYSE
The technical glitch on July 8 was definitely not the first of its kind. Here are just a few examples of technological malfunctions that have shuttered the NYSE:
- On Sept. 3, 1969, the exchange shut down from 12:35 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. due to a power failure.
- The NYSE experienced seven minor shutdowns in the 1970s due to computer glitches.
- On Oct. 13, 1983, trading halted from 2:51 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. from a technical malfunction with the low-speed ticker.
- Opening was delayed until 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, 1995, due to computer systems trouble.
- An internal power failure halted trading from 9:41 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1990.
- A computer switch malfunction halted trading for 59 minutes on Oct. 26, 1998.
- On June 8, 2001, trading went down for more than an hour due to a computer systems connectivity problem.
But technical issues aren't the only recurring culprit behind New York Stock Exchange shutdowns. War events -- and terrorist attacks -- are also repeat offenders.
In fact, the longest closure in NYSE history occurred in July 1914. The start of World War I suspended the exchange for four months.
On Aug. 15-16, 1945, the exchange shut down to celebrate V-J Day (when Japan ceased fighting in World War II -- the country formally surrendered on Sept. 2). The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, closed the exchange for three days.
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Weather has delayed or shut down the exchange several times. For example, from 1967 to 1996, eight blizzards rocked the NYSE. Hurricane Gloria stopped it on Sept. 27, 1985, and on Oct. 29-30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy shut down the exchange for two days -- the first time a weather event had done so in 124 years (in 1888, a snowstorm dropped 40 feet of the white stuff).
Unique events like the New York City blackout in July 1977, or the attempt on former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's life in March 1981, have closed markets in the past.