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Sat, Feb 24, 2001 EST
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Nasdaq Market Says it is Ready for
Decimals, Traders Disagree

By Amy Baldwin   Associated Press
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NEW YORK — The Nasdaq Stock Market maintains it is on track to convert share prices to decimals by April 9, despite a contention by stock traders that the Nasdaq needs at least another four months.

"We will be ready," said Nasdaq spokesman Scott Peterson on Thursday.

Earlier this week, stock traders asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to extend the April deadline for implementing decimal-priced stock quotes by at least four months. The traders say the automated Nasdaq, long credited for its innovation in computerized trading, needs more time.

"The current plan does not provide enough time to adequately test and assess the many technology and trading issues associated with the conversion," the Security Traders Association contended in a Feb. 20 letter to Laura Unger, the SEC's acting chairwoman.

The Nasdaq plans to test decimal pricing twice next month before converting the prices of its nearly 5,000 stocks by April 9.

"Nothing has changed," Peterson said. "We're on the launch pad and the countdown has begun."

Peterson would not comment on whether the Nasdaq would change its plans if the SEC extends the deadline.

The SEC said on Wednesday that it received the letter but declined further comment.

The government mandated in 1997 that U.S. stock markets price their issues in decimals, saying investors would better understand a price of $10.63 than $10 5/8. Decimals also allow stocks to be traded in penny increments, no longer limiting them to halves, quarters, eighths and sixteenths.

The Nasdaq last year said its computers, strained by heavy trading volume, weren't ready to handle the change. The SEC then pushed back its original July 3, 2000 deadline to this April.

The New York Stock Exchange converted all of its trading to decimals on Jan. 29.

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