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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Battle to open markets on time
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) chairman Richard Grasso
Grasso: "Right thing for America is to resume trading"
The complex electronic systems that drive New York's stock markets are to undergo a series of tests on Saturday to find out if they are ready for the resumption of trading on Monday as planned.

The morale and prestige of America's financial system is at stake.

The pressure is on to show that America is open for business again, following Tuesday's devastating terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, which have led to the longest break in share trading since the 1929 Wall Street crash.

Officials from the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest share-dealing arena in the world, the Nasdaq electronic trading system and the American Stock Exchange have been eager to present a smooth and united front.

If Saturday's tests are not a success, the markets will remain closed.

"We will make sure the system is fully-tested, or we will not bring it back up," Nasdaq chief executive Hardwick Simmons said.

Access problems

One of the main obstacles to the smooth resumption of trading has been lack of access to lower Manhattan.

The Nasdaq building in Times Square, New York
The Nasdaq market site, which has been closed since Tuesday, displays an American flag

The area south of 14th Street has been sealed off, subway trains are being stopped well short of downtown destinations and bridges have been closed.

These links must be re-opened if the tens of thousands of people who work on Wall Street - many of whom commute from New Jersey, Queens and other outlying areas - are to make it into work.

Rescue and recovery work is still going, with emergency services still searching for survivors in the rubble.

But New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said on Friday that he would try to open as much of the city's Wall Street financial district "as possible" by Monday.

Recovery crews will clean out paths of lower Manhattan in order to open the Wall Street area, Mr Giuliani said.

Psychological test

Another barrier to trading is harder to quantify.


The psychological effect of Tuesday's horrific events on the 180,000 people who normally work on Wall Street is hard to imagine.

As states worldwide have held services in honour of those who perished in the attacks, Wall Street survivors spent Friday remembering lost friends and colleagues.

Whether they will be ready to throw themselves back into the hard-nosed world of share dealing remains to be seen.

But there are many on Wall Street itself who believe the resumption of trading is the only way to raise morale.

"The right thing to do for America and certainly for those who are in the midst of this great tragedy... is to resume trading," New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) chairman, Richard Grasso, said on Thursday.

Bond trading has already resumed in New York, after a two day closure, and the Chicago Board of Trade, where futures are dealt, also re-opened for a shortened session.

The vital electronic clearing system which guarantees the integrity of the stock and bond markets is in place.

Sealed off

Damage to the American Stock Exchange, located in a building close to the World Trade Center, is so severe that parts of its operations might be temporarily moved to the NYSE, or regional markets, such as the Philadelphia stock exchange.

The NYSE itself, which on a normal day houses 3,200 people, remains undamaged.

But the giant piles of rubble and the destruction of phone and data lines has effectively sealed the building off.

Serious concerns

US Securities and Exchange Commissioner Laura Unger said: "There are some serious concerns about the infrastructure in place to support trading.

"The reason we are waiting for Monday is because we expect there will not be disruptions on Monday."


The good news is that everyone - from competitors to police to officials to suppliers are working together as one big team

Verizon Communications

Verizon Communications, which handles about 80% of NYSE's communications, is working round the clock to restore telephone lines.

"The huge majority of our resources are fine.

"But we have got an unstable environment - equipment underground that we can not get to yet.

"The good news is that everyone - from competitors to police to officials to suppliers - is working together as one big team," a Verizon spokesman said.

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The BBC's Patrick O'Connell in New York
"Many in the financial community are still focussing on the human tragedy"

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See also:

14 Sep 01 | Business
Shares and dollar dive
14 Sep 01 | Business
Wall Street mourns lost colleagues
14 Sep 01 | Business
Financial ties across the waters
14 Sep 01 | Business
US markets to re-open on Monday
13 Sep 01 | Business
Disaster planning saves Wall Street
12 Sep 01 | Business
Q&A: The global economic impact
12 Sep 01 | Business
Will US consumer confidence fade?
12 Sep 01 | Business
Action to contain market crisis
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