On this day in economic and business history…
The New York Stock Exchange — the larger part of NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) — moved into its present home on 18 Broad Street (on the corner of Broad and Wall Street) on April 22, 1903. It was an architectural marvel for its time, with a massive open trading floor without any supporting columns, huge windows, six miles of pneumatic tubes for routing orders, and one of the world’s first air-conditioning systems. Even if you’ve never visited this iconic location, you’re probably well-acquainted. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world:
The Exchange also has one of the most iconic sculptures in the world standing near its doors, called simply Charging Bull. The bronze statue in Bowling Green has become a symbol of New York’s financial sector ever since it was installed following the 1987 market crash:
Where else might you have seen the current building? Well, beyond the many market-focused films, you might have seen Bane hijack the “Gotham Stock Exchange” in The Dark Knight Rises. Those scenes were shot in the New York Stock Exchange building. Bane’s efforts have been compared to the modus operandi of Occupy Wall Street, and those protests were localized near the exchange. So many protestors camped out near the bull sculpture that it remained fenced off for months after the protests ended.
Many companies choose to visit the New York Stock Exchange to ring the ceremonial opening bell when they complete an IPO, and these events now bring some of the largest crowds to a largely automated exchange. After all, billions of daily trades couldn’t be handled by a bunch of stock jockeys yelling numbers at screens. The automation of the New York Stock Exchange has, unfortunately, had the side effect of making dramatic market moves less human, as there’s no longer a swarm of traders on the floor. Many of the market’s wildest days occurred before the advent of computerized trading, when hundreds or thousands of traders and support staff made frantic efforts to profit (or at least minimize their losses):
Oct. 19, 1987: Black Monday sends the Dow plummeting nearly 23%. Program trading (a precursor to high-frequency trading) is blamed, marking an unofficial shift toward remote electronic trading.
Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, 1929: The unofficial beginning of the Great Depression was this sharp two-day break that began the Crash of 1929. Traders were remarkably optimistic at the close of both days, despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI)’s 23% loss.
However, that’s not to say that wild swings went away when the traders left the floor. Some of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI)’s wildest days occurred during the period near the dot-com bubble peak and during the financial crisis of 2008. These events simply occurred without the familiar trope of traders yelling “buy, buy!” or “sell, sell!” at 18 Broad Street as a backdrop.