The Trump administration has held “constructive” discussions with the New York Stock Exchange throughout the coronavirus outbreak, supporting the marketplace’s decision to keep its trading floor open in the early days of the outbreak as well as its choice to end in-person trading in March, NYSE President Stacey Cunningham tells Yahoo Finance in a newly released interview.
“Those conversations throughout this entire period have been very good,” says Cunningham, who has served as NYSE president since 2018.
Officials at federal agencies like the Securities Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department, as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, offered similarly supportive sentiment to the NYSE, Cunningham said.
“Everyone is looking to help,” she adds. “The goal for everybody that was shared was how do we get through this cleanly and as smoothly as possible.”
“As I talked to all of those people, they were supportive of our maintaining the floor and keeping that open throughout this process,” she says. “Then when when it became clear that the virus is spreading quickly, they were also supportive of our decision to close the trading floor.”
In early March, the major indexes began to fall as the potential worldwide damage wrought by the coronavirus came into view. Over that month, trading on the NYSE paused on four different occasions when market plunges triggered a circuit breaker meant to slow sudden drops.
‘We’ll reopen it as soon as we can’
On March 18, the NYSE announced it would close its trading floor and shift to fully electronic trading, after two people tested positive for coronavirus at screening set up at the facility.
Cunningham said it was important to keep the trading floor open during the early stages of the outbreak’s effect on the stock market because in-person trading helps limit a rollercoaster market.
“The floor price provides really unique value, because it dampens volatility,” she says. “We were already in a period of heightened volatility.”
“So the value of the floor is even more important during those periods of time, which is why we'll reopen it as soon as we can,” she adds.
Cunningham made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Cunningham is the first woman president in the centuries-long history of the NYSE. Prior to joining the NYSE in a senior capacity in 2012, Cunningham worked as a managing director and director of capital markets at Nasdaq.
Since the S&P 500 (^GSPC) reached a low point on March 23, the index had risen more than 26%, as of Friday afternoon. The stock market was up on Friday despite a monthly jobs report that showed the U.S. economy cut 20.5 million payrolls in April, and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7%.
Cunningham acknowledged that the resilient stock market does not reflect the condition of the economy, since relatively robust sectors like health care and tech make up a large portion of major indexes like the S&P 500.
“When we say the market, it's not a reflection of the strength of the economy,” says Cunningham. “It's a reflection of the public sentiment of the stocks that were in that index that we're looking at.”
“It's important that we recognize Wall Street will recover from this and that won't be a problem,” she says. “That's why the packages that the government has had have been focusing on the individual and how do we put money back in their pocket.”