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April 30, 2003

Stern Warning for Triple Witch

By Staff Reports

Market manipulation - often practiced during the triple witch period - is serious business and will be punished severely, Nasdaq officials have warned their members.

Manipulators often target triple witching sessions, which happen once a quarter when the Nasdaq-100 Index is rebalanced. Some Nasdaq members - using strategies such as spraying' and pounding' - are taking advantage of the rebalancing. That, said Nasdaq officials in an internal memo, is wreaking havoc with the market and will be punished.

Spraying is a practice of entering many small orders of about 100 shares. This often results in a large price change that is exploited by sharp traders. Pounding happens when a trader enters a large order based on display size just before the close or opening of trading.

Sometimes this practice destroys the liquidity of a stock. And that, Nasdaq officials say, creates an unusually large price movement. Nasdaq officials are also going after participants who have not kept up to date with reporting standards. Their slow technology means trade reporting is often delayed. That is another issue Nasdaq officials promise to watch closely.