NEW YORK -- The U.S. financial markets came to a halt Tuesday after two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
All U.S. exchanges and markets closed for the day, and late in the afternoon, officials of the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Stock Market and American Stock Exchange said they would remain closed today.
"As a safety precaution while the tragic events of today are sorted out, the securities markets have decided not to open for trading today," SEC chairman Harvey Pitt said in a statement in late morning. "We strongly support that decision."
It was likely to be at least a few days before activity fully resumed because of the devastation to the World Trade Center and damage to surrounding businesses.
Many of the nation's investment firms have at least some of their operations in the World Trade Center or surrounding buildings, possibly limiting their ability to restart quickly. And the New York Mercantile Exchange, where energy futures are traded, is located in the nearby World Financial Center.
Much of the downtown district was evacuated. It was difficult to make phone calls to the downtown business district and throughout Manhattan.
The collapse of both of the World Trade Center skyscrapers and reports of attacks on the State Department and on the Pentagon in Washington added to the paralysis and terror already engulfing the financial district. The fate of the 50,000 people who work in the twin 110-story towers was not immediately known.
Hundreds of companies sent their employees home for the day, putting thousands of New Yorkers into the streets after public transportation was shut down for fear of more attacks.
"The two explosions were incredible and at the point of explosions all you could see outside were personal belongings and office supplies raining outside," said Bob Rendine, an American Stock Exchange spokesman, whose office is down the block from the NYSE. "We're staying here. We think it's safer to stay inside than go outside at this point."
Business and trading in other parts of the country also were affected. The Chicago Board of Trade suspended all trading.
Overseas, the London Stock Exchange evacuated its building but said trade would continue from an alternate site. The Toronto Stock Exchange ended its trading in midmorning. Taiwan, which is about half a day ahead of the United States, said its markets would be shuttered Wednesday. And the German stock market was evacuated due to a bomb scare.
Around the country and world, the investment community was focused on the fate of people working in the buildings affected by the apparent terrorist attacks.
"I'm just worried about people who are there," said Robert Harrington, head of listed block trading at UBS Warburg's office in Connecticut.