A financial trader shot himself in the open outcry pit of Brazil's main financial exchange Tuesday in an apparent suicide attempt, shocking a market already battered by the global credit crisis.

Paulo Sergio Silva, 36, a trader for the brokerage arm of Brazilian banking giant Itau, shot himself in the chest during the afternoon trading session, the exchange said, and hospital staff said he was in critical condition.

The commodities and futures exchange in Sao Paulo, controlled by BM&F Bovespa, did not halt trading after the shooting. The exchange said it was unclear how the gun passed through its metal detectors.

Witnesses said the gunshot briefly sowed panic on the trading floor of Latin America's largest financial exchange.

"We're shocked ... There was a loud sound of a gunshot and everyone scrambled to figure out where it came from," said one trader who asked not to be named.

Silva was given first aid on the scene before being rushed to the hospital, where staff said he arrived in critical condition and was undergoing an operation.

Witnesses said the incident happened in the interest rate futures pit, a raucous circle where on average $21 billion worth of contracts exchange hands every day.

Brazil's financial markets have taken a pounding in recent months as the global credit crunch has spread, causing massive losses for investors and companies alike.

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