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US markets closed Monday as storm hobbles NY

NEW YORK--U.S. stock and options markets were closed on Monday, and possibly Tuesday, as regulators, exchanges and brokers worry about the integrity of markets in the face of Hurricane Sandy.

Market participants and regulators decided to shut the market because the storm will make it difficult to ensure the safety of employees, major exchanges said.

The decision to close stock and options markets came after regulators, exchanges, and dealers discussed the unknowns that would have been tested if the markets opened on Monday, three of the sources said.

For example, NYSE Euronext's New York Stock Exchange had planned to shut its physical trading floor, which would have meant operating as an all-electronic exchange for the first time.

Bond markets will remain open, but will close at noon, a trade group said.

The decision to shut down the stock markets came after Wall Street had prepared to open for business on Monday with limited staffing, booking hotel rooms for key employees and leaning on offices in other cities. The storm forced the New York mass transit system to shut down on Sunday evening, leaving tens of thousands of employees stuck at home.

Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc., activated their emergency plans, which many firms put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Banks were putting key staff, including some traders, in hotels and also are relying on others who live near the bank's offices.

It was not immediately clear if those plans had also changed.

Some offices in lower Manhattan's Financial District are in evacuation zones and most non-critical staff and employees who don't rely on high-speed systems, including some investment bankers, were asked to work from home.

The storm is expected to slam into the U.S. East Coast on Monday night, bringing torrential rain, high wind, severe flooding and power outages. The rare “super storm” — created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm — could be the biggest to hit the U.S. mainland, forecasters said.

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A sign displays information in Grand Central Station in New York on Sunday, Oct. 28 as the MTA begins an orderly shutdown of commuter rail and subway service in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. (AFP)

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