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What the Markets Will Bear: Amid Uncertainties, Exchanges Open Today

Asian shares end sharply lower after Japan intervenes to support the dollar; Europe stems earlier losses.
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The campaign to restore Wall Street was under way Monday morning as investors braced for the first opening bell in seven days.

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Police and guardsmen manned checkpoints on Wall Street as workers got off buses, trains and ferries that were deployed or rerouted for Monday's open. Systems and equipment were tested all weekend as officials promised toovercome serious lingering questions about the financial district'selectronic and physical infrastructure. Much will have to gountested, particularly in the area of physical access. But with fourconsecutive trading sessions missed, the danger of further delay began tooutweigh the danger of the unknown.

"I don't think there's any reservation, that Monday at 9.30, the openingbell as we've come to know it will ring and trading will commence," saidRichard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Overnight, Tokyo's Nikkei averaged fell 5% to close at a new 17-year low, although several big exporters ended off their lows after Japanese authorities intervened to stop the rise of the yen. The Nikkei average finished down 504.48 points or5.04% at 9,504.41, the lowest close since December 1983. The Hang Seng index lost 336 points, or 3.5%, to 3361.

The dollar bounced more than one yen to around 118.30 yenafter the Bank of Japan stepped in to buy dollars in early Tokyoafternoon. It eased to around 117.20 yen in early European trade.

In Europe, the FT-SE 100 was up 0.38% to 4774 while Paris's CAC-40 was little changed at 3911.

The race to the bell is running parallel to the nearby rescue effort, andacrid smoke and dust continue to waft through the Financial District from the siteof the fallen World Trade Center. Street cleaners ran up and down Wall Streetand the NYSE's facade was being regularly hosed down and scrubbed.

Grasso said there is "no Plan B," meaning that when and if stock tradingis to resume it will do so on the floor of the Big Board and in tandem with the Nasdaq, whose trading servers were housed far from the terrorist attack. Ascurrently envisioned, Monday's session will be subject to no unusual restrictions on short-selling or program trading.

"This is about providing 85 million investors with the breadth of thecapital markets," Grasso said.

Technicians on the floor of the Exchange continued to gauge the viabilityof phone and data lines over which trades and prices are conveyed -- a keyissue if the markets are to provide their usual liquidity in the expectedtrading crunch. Verizon, which provides network services to Lower Manhattan,was still trying to repair a switching station that handles 20% of Wall Street's traffic; stations carrying the remainder were up and going. Electricity to the Exchange was also running.

But there was no way to know how the Financial District would handle itsfirst big influx of humanity since Tuesday, as more than 100,000 financialindustry workers return to the scene of the trauma. Several majordisembarkation centers were destroyed in the attack. Promised shuttle busesand extra ferries will have to operate with an efficiency that isuncharacteristic of temporary mass transit in New York to get nervous workersdowntown. On the other hand, much that was once extraordinary in New York hasbecome commonplace in the past few days.

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Another daunting challenge was getting member firms of the NYSE housedand connected to floor brokers. Several big houses, including

Merrill Lynch


Lehman Brothers

, scrambled to find temporary space for their tradingoperations. All said they would be ready to go by the open.

"The industry has risen above competitiveness. People have offered spaceand technology to competitors," Grasso said, adding that plans to move the

American Stock Exchange

to the NYSE floor began hours after the twin towersfell. "They've risen above the question of who's going to do business."

Security is always high on Wall Street but Grasso said the measures inplace Monday will add an extra 60 to 90 minutes to the typical schedule. Hecharacterized the orders as, "If Dick Grasso were to arrive without properidentification, send him home."

Those measures are probably welcome to anyone who was in the area onTuesday, as will be the presence of fire-fighters and police who have beenchosen to ring the opening bell after two minutes of silence on the Exchangefloor.

What happens after that, however, is another