Today is Good Friday, the day that Christians observe the anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s not a federal holiday, meaning you almost certainly won’t have the day off, and banks will be open for business. That said, the New York Stock Exchange will be closed, so no trading will take place today. Exactly why this is the case is a matter of debate and speculation. After all, it’s not as if Wall Street is known for its piety.
Wall Street legend has it that a terrible market crash happened on a Good Friday, which led to a ban on trading that day, for good. But the NYSE’s records seem to indicate otherwise: it has been closed for every Good Friday except for a few, 1906, 1907, and 1898.
A Bloomberg story from a few years ago points out that it’s that last year –1907 — which likely created the myth of the Good Friday crash. The Panic of 1907 took place that year, but in October, when all market crashes seem to happen. Bloomberg goes on to explain that the tradition, wherever it started, and however curious, has some logic to it. For one, it likely came from a lack of demand for trading on what was a high holiday in the exchange’s early days. Robert Bruner, a historian, explains to Bloomberg that there was likely insufficient demand for trading on a day like Good Friday, with so many traders at church.
As to why it stuck around, Bloomberg cites the NYSE’s “rich history” of Irish-Catholic chairmen.
There are other, less convincing arguments out there on the Internet, naturally. This eHow article posits a few dubious theories. Among them is the theory that Christian and Jewish traders agreed to take a day off around their important religious holidays in the spring — Easter and Passover, respectively — and settled on Good Friday for its proximity to both. The other theory posits that the NYSE has a “favorable lease for its property in Manhattan, but the terms require the building to be closed on major Christian holidays.”
This, eHow cites as “the most logical.” Sure, except for the fact that, like so many apparently static institutions like the White House, or even the entire captiol, the NYSE has moved several times in its history, likely not bringing archaic lease agreements with it. That and NYSE Group owns 11 Wall Street. So, that’s easy to rule out.
Regardless of how this situation came into being, we should probably all be happy. It’s one less day that traders (and the robot traders that vastly outnumber them) can send our economy into a freefall.