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Edging Fractions Out Of The Investment Picture

Prepare to kiss those tricky stock-quote fractions goodbye. The New York Stock Exchange this week expanded its test of decimal-based stock prices to include 57 more securities, including technology heavyweights America Online and Compaq, in a conversion effort that will run through April.

Decimalization of share prices lets investors buy shares using standard cents rather than cumbersome fractions such as 15/16. Presumably, more people will trade when fractions are abolished.

Stock prices have been based on eighths since 1792, when the stock exchange first hung its shingle on Wall Street, and Spanish pieces of eight were the coins of the realm. The exchanges are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrades to handle an expected surge in volume from the shift to decimals and the growth in online trading.

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