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Major glitches halt all NYSE trading and ground United Airlines flights

Updated by Kyle Wiggers on 07-08-2015: After nearly four hours of downtime, trading resumed at 3:10 p.m. ET on the floor of the NYSE. The exchange declined to specify the cause, saying only that the technical problems had been rectified. 

Today wasn’t technology’s finest hour. In what appears to be two separate instances of severe computer malfunction, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) halted all trades and United Airlines grounded all of its flights.

An unspecified “technical issue” that arose around 11:30 a.m. this morning forced the NYSE to suspend trading and cancel all open requests. The cause remains unclear — the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Reuters that there were “no signs of malicious activity” — but connectivity issues seem likely at fault. About an hour before the shutdown, the NYSE reported that a networking bug was leading orders to go unacknowledged.

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News of the shutdown spread rapidly — it appears to have momentarily crashed the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) homepage. The NYSE says that NYSE Arca and NYSE Amex/Arca Options were unaffected by this morning’s issues and continue to operate normally, but the main stock exchange is still down as of this writing.

United, meanwhile, experienced a showstopping “automation” glitch in its flight reservation system that led the FAA to ground all of its planes. The bug, which the airline coincidentally blames on a “networking issue,” was resolved around 9:20 a.m. this morning, but its effects are still being felt around the globe. About 4,900 flights were impacted, NBC reports, and delays could reach as many as 235 domestic and 128 international destinations. Frustrated customers turned to social media with reports of long lines, baggage system backups, and gate agents forced to write tickets by hand.

Catastrophic technical screwups are unfortunately nothing new for U.S. stock exchanges and the airline industry. Two years ago in May, the Dow Jones industrial average experienced a “flash crash” that sent stocks plunging hundreds of points in minutes. Airliners’ troubles began more recently — on June 6, United Airlines grounded all flights for an hour because of faulty “dispatching information.”