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Hey Matt!!

This has been bothering me for YEARS!! Every night the local news shows the stock market results...let's say on Monday the Dow goes UP 10 points; Tuesday DOWN 50; Wednesday DOWN 150; Thursday DOWN 350; and Friday UP 20. Why are the people shown on the podium cheering and clapping with the same enthusiasm EVERY night??

-- Al Novitsky, San Diego

Most of the time, the suits on the New York Stock Exchange balcony don't much care what's transpired on the trading floor. They're on hand for a photo op to promote themselves and the NYSE. I'm sure you've noticed all the logo banners behind the principal players. The trading day traditionally begins with a bell rung at 9:30a.m. (Eastern time) and ends with a bell rung at 4:00p.m. So say your company's stock has been traded on the NYSE for 20 years, or maybe you've just launched an IPO. To celebrate the day, you can arrange to have your CEO appear on the balcony and push the big button that rings the bell. You send out press releases, hang company banners, bring your pals, crack some champagne, throw streamers, confetti, balloons. You're cheering a company event, not the Dow. With any luck, the world will see your mug and your logos on the news that night.

In general, the bell ringers are connected with the exchange in some way, but occasionally you'll see someone else newsworthy. When trading resumed after 9/11, emergency service personnel from the city rang the opening bell. (Sorry, make that Opening Bell-- a registered NYSE service mark. Same with Closing Bell.) Shane Mosley did the honors after his second defeat of Oscar de la Hoya. He was flanked by HBO Sports honchos and NYSE media whips celebrating the fact that the bout's pat-per-view revenues exceeded $50 million. Bells have been rung by robots and a guy in a Snoopy suit. The more hoopla, the better, maybe to take everyone's mind off the Dow.

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