SECURITIES: One False Step and . . .

One False Step and . . .

The over-the-counter stock market has not had many good days lately. So when prices were going up last Wednesday, the last thing traders needed was an unexpected 82-minute shutdown of the computerized NASDAQ system that provides quotations on over-the-counter stocks. The mysterious malfunction helped reduce that day's trading volume to 82.5 million shares, just over half the average activity.

If any traders smelled a rat, they were not far wrong. The problem was traced to a squirrel that is thought to have scampered onto a power line in Connecticut while carrying a piece of aluminum foil. That caused a power failure...

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