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Ho-Hum Trading After Hours

The first after-hours trading session for many individual investors was a bit of yawner.

Only 142 orders were executed during Wednesday night's inaugural two-hour session, with about $3.5 million worth of stock changing hands.

While about 60,000 shares were involved in the trades, there wasn't enough volume to match up most buyers and sellers as more than 1,000 orders went unfilled. And it was a drop in the bucket when compared with the 1.8 billion shares traded during the day on the major exchanges.

Still, organizers of the new exchange were pleased.

The new session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT is being offered Monday through Thursday for customers of Discover Brokerage and Dreyfus Brokerage Services on an electronic exchange named MarketXT.

"I'm happy to tell you the launch was successful," MarketXT chief executive Michael Sanderson said Wednesday night. "The system is working as planned."

Software giant Microsoft grabbed top honors as the most active issue for the session though with just 5,500 shares changing hands, the term "most active" was a bit of a stretch. The software maker finished the MarketXT session at $95.56@1/4 a share, a gain of 25 cents from the closing Nasdaq quote.

The launch of MarketXT, formerly named Eclipse Trading, comes amid a suddenly fierce scramble to roll out extended hours for individual investors as the stock market hits new highs. The Dow Jones industrial average set another record on Wednesday.

Investors have already demonstrated an appetite for making portfolio decisions at home, where they have more privacy and time to think. An estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of online trades are placed outside normal hours, and then executed when regular trading resumes in the morning.

While other brokerages and alternative markets have announced plans to extend their trading hours in the coming months, only the discount broker Datek Online had launched an after-hours session before Wednesday.

MarketXT takes after-hours trading a step forward because the late session on Datek's Island ECN exchange only runs for an hour and fifteen minutes after the regular 4 p.m. EDT close of the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market.

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