IF anyone doubts that change is coming to Wall Street, look at two recent developments: drive-time trading for the venerable New York Stock Exchange and the addition of Mickey Mouse and his friends to the Dow Jones industrial average. In a broad sense, the two occurrences are linked. The Disney Company, now on the blue-chip Dow, is one of the world's most successful multimedia and multinational companies. Thanks to advances in telecommunications, travel, and global financial systems, Disney products - from theme parks to films - span the globe. Those same advances have allowed stock trading to become global; millions of shares of companies listed on the Big Board are traded daily on other regional and overseas exchanges.
Now the NYSE, which rings its closing bell at 4 p.m., wants that lost business back. Starting June 13, the Big Board will allow limited after-hours trading - to 5 p.m. Eastern time for individual stocks, and to 5:15 p.m. for "baskets" of stocks for large institutional investors. The exchange says this is the first step in a process that will ultimately lead to 24-hour trading.
The extension is long overdue and should give a boost to the NYSE.
Meantime, the Wall Street Journal recently announced that it was dropping three companies from the Dow Jones industrial average of 30 blue-chip stocks. Out the door went Primerica, once known as American Can, but now a financial-services company; Navistar, once known as International Harvester, but now into trucks and diesel engines; and USX Corporation, once known as US Steel, but now a diversified energy company (oil and gas). In their place are J.P. Morgan, the first banking company for the index, Ca t
erpillar, the equipment manufacturer, and Walt Disney. The new Dow, in other words, will be more attuned to the service and consumer-driven economy of the 1990s - and less dependent on the transmogrified, multipurpose companies that became common in the 1970s and '80s.
Dow-followers are currently attempting to assess whether the replacement firms will make the stock average more volatile, or help drive it firmly past the elusive 3,000-point barrier.