A huge winter storm pummeled the United States, bringing parts of the Midwest to a standstill, delivering another wintry swipe to the Northeast and disrupting flights and other transport.
The storm, touching some 30 states and a third of the U.S. population, stretched from New Mexico to Maine and included another blast of winter in New York City.
Power was cut to hundreds of thousands of people.
The morning commute in New York was disrupted by the weather, preventing some financial traders from getting to work.
"Trains are running on weekend schedule and most traders can't even get out of their homes," said Thomas di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates trading at Guggenheim Securities in New York.
Thinner volume in markets can mean greater volatility.
The storm delivered its strongest punch to the Midwest, dumping as much as three inches of snow an hour on Chicago during most of the night along with winds of up to 40 miles per hour.
Some traders at the world's largest futures exchange, the CME Group in Chicago, stayed overnight in hotels so they could get to work on time.
Some 17 inches of snow had fallen on Chicago by early Wednesday morning and snowfalls of a foot or more recorded from Oklahoma City to Kansas City and Indianapolis.
More snow was expected on Wednesday with Chicago forecast to top 20 inches by the end of the day.
More than 300,000 customers were without power from Texas to Ohio.
Thousands of airline passengers were stranded across the country after major airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights.
"Weather-related stocks like airlines may suffer due to the weather conditions but that's stating the obvious," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.
In the U.S. Northeast, already facing a wintry mix of snow and sleet, the storm was expected to dump 12-18 inches of snow on Boston through Wednesday.
After the snow lets up on Wednesday, some affected areas will be in a deep freeze until the weekend, with daytime temperatures below freezing and "really dangerous wind chills," said National Weather Service spokesman Pat Slattery.
The storm was expected to wreak havoc on agricultural operations in the Plains states, threatening the dormant winter wheat crop, cattle herds and grain deliveries.
Chicago soybean futures rose more than 1 percent early on Tuesday, hitting their highest level since July 2008 as the frigid winter storm boosted feed demand.
ReutersLast Mod: 02 Şubat 2011, 16:43