NEW YORK >> There's slow trading and there's no trading -- this past week Wall Street had both.
Investors shrug off
trading halt at NYSE
A computer glitch caps off
a week of light volume
By Amy Baldwin
Just when analysts and investors thought buying and selling couldn't get any slower, much of it stopped altogether yesterday when computer problems forced the New York Stock Exchange to shut down its trading floor for an hour and a half.
Trading stopped about 10:10 a.m. EDT, about 40 minutes into the day's session, when computer problems prevented about half of the exchange's 3,500 stocks from opening.
Most trading resumed at 11:35 a.m. However, about 10 percent of NYSE-listed companies, including Dow Jones industrial average component IBM Corp. and Anheuser-Busch Cos., did not begin trading until early afternoon because of additional problems at two of the exchange's trading posts.
It wasn't until 2:26 p.m., with only 90 minutes to go in the session, that all NYSE stocks were finally open.
The delay was pretty much in keeping with the lethargy that dominated the trading week. Volume was light to begin with, while the market's meager gains canceled out modest dips -- the Dow ended the week only 13 points below where it ended the previous Friday.
Investors have been stalling, awaiting positive earnings news or signs that the economy has begun to rebound, analysts say.
Even without the halt, "there is no incentive to do a lot," said Gary Kaltbaum, market technician for Investors' Edge Partners in Orlando, Fa., who spent his time watching the French Open tennis championships when the NYSE closed down.
Market observers were thankful the glitch came at the end of a rather dull week, rather than during peak earnings season, or on a day when a major economic report was released.
"It could have made things a lot more volatile," Kaltbaum said.
Instead, the NYSE had its skimpiest trading day of the year with 721.1 million shares traded, compared with a modest 1.08 billion Thursday.
The computer problems that brought about the trading halt stemmed from software introduced into the NYSE trading system Thursday night, NYSE Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Grasso said.
The problem specifically affected how small orders were delivered to about half of trading floor. While the NYSE was able to receive orders, it could not relay them to eight of its 17 trading posts on the floor.
The last time the NYSE suspended trading was Oct. 26, 1998, when hardware problems were the issue.
Because the NYSE has had few computer difficulties overall, most Wall Street watchers shrugged off yesterday's foul-up. "Whose computer hasn't had problems?," said Jeff Hirsch, president of the Hirsch Organization, publisher of the Stock Trader's Almanac.
While much focus is placed on the NYSE's specialists, who serve as brokers that bring buyers and sellers together on the NYSE trading floor, most of NYSE trading is conducted electronically.
The Dow ended the week little changed, falling 13.41 or 0.1 percent, to 10,977.0 after tumbling 113.74 yesterday.
The Nasdaq rose 65.66 or 3.1 percent for the week, after falling 48.90 yesterday to 2,215.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had a gain of 4.29, or 0.3 percent gain, dipping 12.00 yesterday to 1,264.96.
The Russell 2000 index rose 9.92 or 2.4 percent for the week after losing 3.13 yesterday to close at 511.64.