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Markets aim to reopen Monday

Workers race to get systems running again

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NEW YORK — U.S. stock markets will stay closed until next week while workers race to replace the communications and power systems lost in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — but some experts aren't convinced that will be enough time to repair the damage.

They say the extent of the physical, as well as psychological, devastation caused to New York's financial district by Tuesday's assaults will make it challenging for stock trading to resume Monday, as securities officials hope.

"It's going to be a long weekend, but they'll probably be limping along on Monday," said Dave Farber, a professor of telecommunications at the University of Pennsylvania.

The New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ Stock Market, American Stock Exchange and other members of the trading community planned extensive testing Saturday to make sure systems would work.

"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 chairman Richard Grasso said at a news conference Thursday. "We are very confident we will have the right number of people on campus here and in the community required to bring up the world's most admired markets."

While the stock markets remained closed for the third straight day Thursday, some trading involving government bonds and commodities took place as both the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange reopened.

Although neither the NYSE, NASDAQ or Amex's trading abilities were directly harmed by the attack, and most big financial firms have backup facilities where they can do business, significant logistical concerns still exist.

The NYSE's trading floor is in the financial district, meaning that the area has to be cleaned up and safe enough for its traders, specialists and the staffs of other businesses to get there.

Grasso estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 people would come in to work when the markets reopened. Currently, travel is restricted because of worries that the buildings are unstable.

The Amex, which was located closer to the World Trade Center, sustained enough damage that its trading floor is not usable. Its operations are expected to be temporarily relocated to the NYSE and other regional markets, Amex spokesman Bob Rendine said.

The NASDAQ's administrative headquarters are across from the World Trade Center, but most of its trading is done electronically. Still, like other marketplaces, it relies on infrastructure in the financial district to connect to the trading community.

"Although we connect with firms across the country, we also have major players in Manhattan," said NASDAQ spokesman Scott Peterson. "There is still a telephone capacity issue, and that's what Verizon is working so hard on."

Girders plunged through the brick walls of the Verizon switching building that controls 40 percent of lower Manhattan's telephone lines and 20 percent of those used by the NYSE. The impact smashed computer equipment and left a half-inch layer of dust inside. Water also flooded the building's subbasements, which are home to the cables used to connect Wall Street.

Outside, some underground lines can't be tested or fixed, said Verizon spokesman Jim Smith, because "we have manholes covered with tons of rubble." Verizon is considering laying temporary cable on top of the street, inside protective pipe, or conduit, Smith said.

Another wild card is how many stock market-related businesses will continue to operate in the financial district.

Many firms have simply moved their offices and their trading desks to temporary quarters outside Manhattan, mainly in New Jersey. But offices that perform functions necessary for trading and are still standing will have to make a decision.

Although all of Merrill Lynch's trading operations are outside of the financial district, it still has offices in the area for legal and other support services.

"It's too early to say but most likely, all those operations will be done out of other offices," said spokesman Eddie Reeves.

Those who return to Wall Street Monday must also deal with sadness and trauma. Approximately 4,700 people have been reported missing in the wake of the World Trade Center's destruction.

Nevertheless, restoring confidence in the country's financial system means reopening the symbolic trading floors at the New York Stock Exchange.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission plans to set up hot lines to help answer individual investors' questions and address trading-related complaints.

SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, who was also at the news conference, praised the decision to wait until Monday. The market's closure marks the longest since the Crash of '29, but he appeared to have no regrets.

"Had we reached a decision to open on Friday, which I think could have been justified perhaps, some of the testing would have been done live," he said. "This is a positive development and should give investors even more confidence."