The Egyptian stock market plunged 5% in the opening minute Wednesday, triggering circuit breakers as the exchange opened for the first time in nearly two months.
The sell-off was expected. Traders had predicted a "bloodbath."
"For sure, the main index will drop 5% in the first minute," said Ahmed Samir of Hurreya Brokerage ahead of the trading day, pointing to the red sales orders dominating his computer screen. "Then the stock market will close." The circuit breaker stops trading for 30 minutes.
Outside the stock market, the orderly palm-lined street was mostly empty, with the exception of soldiers and armored personnel carriers. Security has been increased since some protesters demanded on Tuesday that the exchange not reopen.
Mohamed Abdel Salam, who is the chairman of Ministry for Clearing and Settlement, will serve as chairman of the exchange for 6 months, a government statement said this week.
He said this century old building has housed the Egyptian stock market since 1903. Never in the history of Egypt or the world, however, has he seen a stock market closed for such a long period.
The markets have been closed since January 27. A political uprising that began two days earlier resulted in the eventual overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
On Saturday, Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional amendments that pave the way for parliamentary elections in June.
An estimated 45 million Egyptians were eligible to vote in what was widely viewed as the country's first free election in decades, and the poll sets the stage for parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.
The proposed amendments included limiting the president to two four-year terms, capping emergency laws to six months unless they are extended by public referendum, and placing elections under judicial oversight.