U.S. plans to keep markets open, considering shorter hours

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The Trump administration plans to keep U.S. stock markets open despite volatility, though trading hours may be shortened, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

“We absolutely believe in keeping the markets open,” Mnuchin said at a Tuesday news conference at the White House. “Americans need to know they have access to their money.”

Mnuchin said he has spoken to banks and the New York Stock Exchange, and they agree on the need to keep markets operating.

Wild swings in equity markets and thousands in the financial industry working from home have led to questions about whether stock exchanges should remain open. But top regulators and executives of exchange firms have come out in favor of keeping markets open.

U.S. indexes climbed on Tuesday, a day after declines triggered circuit breakers that halted trading before the major indexes plunged to their biggest drop since 1987.

Jim Toes, chief executive officer of the Security Traders Association, an industry group, said on Tuesday that markets need to remain open to “deal with the economy.”

“They can’t close the markets,” Toes said. “They’re functioning, they’re working. Unless something breaks, why?”

Spokespeople for the SEC, the CFTC and FINRA didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment on Mnuchin’s remarks.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said Monday that stock markets should continue to operate. Clayton said the current environment differs from previous market shocks, such as the 2008 credit crisis or the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, partly because of steps that have been taken to bolster the financial industry since then.

“I think our banks are in a much stronger position today than they were then,” Clayton said on CNBC. “This is a demand and supply shock,” he said, adding that he’s concerned businesses might not have access to all the credit they need.

Funds with higher risk profiles — high-yield and emerging markets — are now paying the price.
March 17

Exchanges have largely held up amid surges in volume. That has helped most exchange operators’ stocks outperform the broader market amid the declines.

In a Bloomberg Television interview, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman said trading should continue for the sake of investors and to allow companies to raise needed capital. Closing the markets could “create other pent-up issues,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker.

Terrence Duffy, the CEO of CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange, said Monday on Bloomberg Television that shutting markets could be “a very large mistake.”

“This is not a financial crisis,” Duffy said. “This is a medical crisis.”

Closing markets would create more market anxiety, said Stacey Cunningham, president of the New York Stock Exchange, in a tweet on Monday.

"Closing the markets would not change the underlying causes of the market decline, would remove transparency into investor sentiment, and reduce investors’ access to their money. This would only further compound the current market anxiety," Cunningham tweeted.

--With assistance from Lananh Nguyen, Matthew Leising and Ben Bain.

Bloomberg News
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