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Finance: Day Traders Turn Up Volume


Pity the day trader. As markets become increasingly electronic, and the New York Stock Exchange considers extended hours, traders must spend entire days glued to their computer screens, liable to miss an important transaction if they blink once. Worse, they must do it in the pin-drop silence of their living rooms, without the jockeying and shouting that motivates traders in the pit. Until now.

Using the actual recorded sounds of a trading floor, Wade Vagle, Brad Fishman, and Larry Gazette have come up with MarketSound, a kind of "squawk box" for computers that reads a live data feed to comment on market activity in real time. The bigger the trade, the louder and cockier the "Buy 'em!" When the market goes wild, the pit noise builds; when the traders go to lunch, it quiets down to a murmur. Gazette, a baby-faced man in his late thirties, demonstrates his patent-pending toy by toggling different "audio immersion" elements on and off: the verbal commentary on the market (a disembodied voice announces, say, "Large seller joins offer"), the exclamations of the traders as they buy and sell, the background noise of the pit. The CD-rom software costs $300 a month for one person (it expires after one month). "If you have several screens up at once, you're in visual overload," says Gazette. "Now you can listen to one market while looking at and trading in another -- two senses are better than one, right?"

Not everyone is convinced. "MarketSound is good for a retail investor who is working at home and wants to convince his wife that he has a real job," scoffs a trader at a large investment bank who recently saw a demo of the product. "When she wants him to take out the garbage, he can turn up the volume so that everyone's yelling and screaming and say, 'Honey, I'm busy.' " Ah, the sweet sound of success.


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