Volume light after blackout

By Vivian Chu

NEW YORK: US stocks rose slightly on feather-light volume on Friday, as Wall Street regrouped after the biggest-ever power outage in North America. 

Wall Street firms switched on their emergency power systems and electronic dealing systems, enabling them to run normally on a day when many stores and offices in New York remained shut because they lacked electricity. 

But with thousands of office workers stranded outside the city, trading volume across all markets was woefully thin – even thinner than on a usual Friday in August. 

“It’s very, very quiet. Virtually nothing’s going on,” said Tim Smalls, managing director at S.G. Cowen. “Everyone’s running on a skeletal staff today.” 

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average edged up 11.13 points, or 0.12%, to finish at 9,321.69. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose just 0.16 of a point, or 0.02%, to 990.67. 

The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index ended up 1.66 points, or 0.10%, at 1,702.00, based on the latest available data. 

For the week, the Dow rose 1.42%, the S&P 500 gained 1.34%, and the Nasdaq advanced 3.53%. 

“Normally you’d see a lot more volatility, since we also have options expiry today. But there’s so many connectivity problems, most people decided to watch and wait instead of be actively trading today,” said Jeff Swensen, a senior trader at John Hancock Advisers. 

Friday marked the expiration of August individual equity options and some stock-index options, which often leads to additional volatility in stock prices and the market. 

Just 699.2 million shares traded on the Nasdaq, making it the lightest trading day so far this year. 

Volume was also extremely light on the New York Stock Exchange, with just 562.6 million shares changing hands, compared with an average daily volume of 1.45 billion. 

The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq opened normally at 9.30am, and closed as usual at 4pm.  

But the bond market closed early at 2pm on the recommendation of the Bond Market Association because of the difficulty bond market employees had getting to work. 

The American Stock Exchange began trading in late afternoon, and said it started receiving orders around 3.45pm. 

On the Nasdaq, shares of alternative energy companies posted some of the largest gains in the wake of the blackout. 

Shares of American Superconductor Corp, which makes superconductor cables, jumped US$3.95, or 42.64%, to US$13.20. 

It was among the Nasdaq’s most actively traded shares and the Nasdaq’s No. 2 percentage gainer. Scientists hope such cables can pack more power on less wire, unclogging congested power grids. 

Shares of American Power Conversion Corp, which makes power protection systems, surged 11.26%, or US$1.82, to US$17.98. This stock also ranked among the Nasdaq’s most active names. 

Dell Inc rose, a day after the No. 1 personal computer company reported its fifth straight quarter of year-on-year profit improvement and said technology demand has stabilised, though not greatly improved. Dell shares added 95 cents, or 3.03%, to US$32.34. 

Kohl’s Corp climbed US$2.50, or 4.1%, to US$63.54. The retailer reported its second-quarter earnings fell nearly 10%, hurt by rainy weather and an inventory bulge. 

But it still managed to beat its lowered estimates, and backed analysts’ earnings estimates for the current quarter. - Reuters  

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