You can get cash from the bank at midnight and buy insurance on Saturday. But the financial markets still keep bankers' hours. New York Stock Exchange trading doesn't start until 9:30 and cuts off at 4 p.m. sharp. On the weekend, exchanges close down all over the world.
That is changing slowIy. Last week the Securities and Exchange Commission authorized the Big Board to start afterhours trading. From 4:15 to 5 p.m., a computer will match buy and sell orders-but only at a stock's 4 p.m. closing price. A separate session will let pension plans and mutual funds trade "baskets" of at least 15 stocks. If that sounds less than earth shattering, it is. "We don't expect a lot of volume out of this," says Robert Dissitt of St. Louis broker A.G. Edwards & Sons. Big investors already trade after hours privately or on foreign exchanges; the new hours may help the NYSE grab a small piece of that business.
But longer hours don't deal with the New York exchange's biggest competitive problem: brokers and investors find trading through its floor specialists an expensive way to do business. The American Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange are developing a computer system to match buyers and sellers day or night, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hopes to make computerized 24-hour futures trading a reality by next year. By comparison, the NYSE's longer day may still look like bankers' hours to the 5l.4 million Americans who own stocks.