Michael Jackson's Nasdaq market opening act is no thriller

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Inviting Michael Jackson, the self-described King of Pop, to open the hi-tech Nasdaq stock market in New York yesterday drew the attention of passing crowds in Times Square but failed to add much fizz to trading.

Indeed, stocks ended the day at five-month lows, with Jackson, whose image was projected on the giant curving wall on the outside of the Nasdaq's mid-town headquarters, looking about as gloomy as most US investors feel. The Nasdaq Composite ended down 2.9 per cent while the blue chip Dow Jones fell below the key 10,000 mark, closing at 9,919.6, after the bellwether tech company Sun Microsystems warned of losses as Japanese and European sales failed to meet expectations amid sluggish economic growth.

The 18 per cent fall in Sun's stock, which was the heaviest trading on Nasdaq yesterday, overshadowed Jackson's appearance ahead of a new concert series starting in New York next week.

Normally, it is Nasdaq's arch rival, the New York Stock Exchange, that gets the attention. It tries every day to bring some personality or another to its balcony above the trading floor to ring the opening bell. Dick Grasso, the chairman of the Exchange, has even taken a lion on to the balcony to pep up the ceremony.