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Quick Take of the Markets Today

U.S. markets calmed Monday on good earnings news but Asian markets remained roiled overnight, down about 2 percent across the region. The Yen rose, reflecting a flight to safety as reports continued to circulate that China was tightening bank credit to pump the economic brakes.

Business interests are voicing their support for Ben Bernanke to be given a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, while liberal grass-roots activists are making their opposition known. A Dow Jones Newswires tally shows that 40 senators support Bernanke's confirmation while 17 are opposed, and the rest have not publicly revealed their position. The vote is expected to be held Thursday or Friday.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that while the US remains an obstacle to a global tax on financial transactions, other countries are warming to the idea. "I think the proposals that I made at St Andrews for an international levy ... are now gaining currency around the world. I think you will probably see further moves to get an international agreement about some international levy to deal with the responsibility banks owe to society," Brown said.

Nasdaq OMX Group, NYSE Euronext, BATS Global Markets and Direct Edge, which has yet to gain exchange status, are supporting an effort to get regulators to allow price quotes in increments of less than a penny. The move is part of the exchanges' effort to become increasingly attractive to electronic traders. "We've had institutions, hedge funds, a broad variety of customers asking for this," said Brian Hyndman, senior vice president of transaction services at Nasdaq OMX.

Direct Edge is expecting to receive regulatory approval next month to become an exchange operator. This spring, the company plans to launch two stock exchanges, said Bryan Harkins, Direct Edge's head of sales and strategy. BATS Global Markets also is planning to roll out an options exchange in February, and Nasdaq OMX Group is looking to file for regulatory approval for a third stock-trading platform within one month. The companies have different reasons for launching the platforms.


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