U.S. News

Blizzard Brings Snow Day For Business News

CNBC.com With Wires

A blizzard swept through the US East Coast, dumping heavy snow and disrupting travel and business through the region.

The blizzard hit from Washington to New York, forcing government agencies, the United Nations and schools to close. The storm comes as residents were still trying to dig out from weekend snowfalls of 18 to 32 inches from Washington to southern New Jersey.

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Hundreds of flights were canceled and airlines relaxed ticket policies to allow passengers to change their plans without penalty, moves that could cloud the outlook for an industry already hard hit by the battered economy.

In New York, the storm was expected to worsen later Wednesday. Some companies were allowing employees to leave the office early and many people worked from home. New York ?City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm was likely to cost the city's taxpayers about $1 million for every inch that fell.

The United Nations said its New York headquarters would be closed Wednesday due to the storm.

While government offices in Washington were also closed for the third straight day — at a cost of some $100 million in lost productivity per day — President Barack Obama was trying to maintain his schedule with a meeting with black leaders to discuss the economy and jobs.

The U.S. House of Representatives canceled votes for the week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would not be in session Wednesday but would resume work Thursday. He said he doubted the Senate would have any votes this week. Many congressional hearings were also called off.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had been scheduled to testify before Congress on his exit strategy from the central bank's various liquidity measures once the economy strengthens.

While Bernanke's prepared remarks were released at 10 am ET, he did not appear before the congressional panel that was to hear from the chairman.

Elsewhere, the Treasury Department's monthly budget statement, which was to be released at 2 pm ET today, has been postponed until at least Friday.

And the weekly Energy Information Administration report on oil and gasoline inventories, which normally would come at 10:30 am, has been switched until Friday at 11 am.

The stock market, meanwhile, opened as scheduled, though trading was light. The New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, which put some key personnel in hotels Tuesday night ahead of the storm, said they planned regular sessions Wednesday.

JP Morgan was making cots available in its New York offices for workers who were unable to make it home.

Schools were closed across much of the region, and many canceled classes for the rest of the week. Some Northeast cities ground to a halt as large amounts of snow fell, coupled with powerful winds that created whiteout conditions. That led the city of Baltimore to order all vehicles off the streets except for emergency personnel.

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—Reuters contributed to this report.