Normal trading to 'take a long time'

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The Independent Online

US traders can look at European and Asian markets for guidance but they may find, when they return to work tomorrow, that the rest of the world is looking to them for leadership. The bond market reopened on Thursday and although there were many technical hurdles to cope with, not least the non-appearance of Cantor Fitzgerald, among the market's biggest players, trading did appear to make a return to the old ways.

In a normal working day, billions of transactions are made and billions of chunks of data change hands across a system people expect to be faultless. At the heart of that is the telephone network. Verizon Communications is among the principal providers of telecoms in the lower Manhattan area. Its offices in the World Trade Centre suffered huge damage when building Number Seven collapsed.

A spokesman for Verizon, Eric Rabe, confirmed fears that returning to normal service would be a drawn-out process. "We're not trying to kid anybody," he said. "This is going to take a long time." But he added that restoring services to the New York Stock Exchange has become its highest priority. He also believes that after a weekend of testing and laying emergency wires, the NYSE could be operating at about 90 per cent capacity tomorrow.

But for those traders who are preparing to re-enter the market, it remains very unclear if the many efforts and rebuilding projects are going to resuscitate a technology sector whose decline has marked the last year of financial trading. Analysts are saying that the technology sector will suffer just as badly as everything else if consumers and businesses reduce spending in the wake of the attacks.

John Gantz, a chief researcher at International Data Corps, has already begun lowering his estimates of general technology spending from his previous worst-case estimate. Where once he thought that 5 per cent growth was reasonable, he now believes 3 per cent is a more realistic target.

Indeed the companies themselves, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco, have all been discussing replacement projects and rebuilding strategies that are likely to end up costing them many millions of dollars.

On the other hand, there are signs that certain parts of the economy could now be due for a significant rebound in their fortunes. Airline companies have begun predicting that they will be able to handle many fewer flights on an average day because security checks and other measures will delay turnaround times.

And it is also expected that many US travellers will remain petrified of air transport for months, perhaps even years. The only option left for covering the huge distances in the US is railway, and some transport analysts think rail companies will be considering rebuilding many of the cross-country lines that have fallen into disuse over the past few decades.

One big area of the economy that has to consider its next moves extremely carefully is ours, the media. Apart from the various constraints of round-the-clock news coverage, advertisers are desperately struggling to make sure that commercials and other comments do not, in any way, offend the families and friends of the victims.

In a memo sent to executives at Kraft Food, the senior management was instructed to undergo a personal vetting process, to ensure that any programmes of publicity remain within bounds of taste.

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