Changes in the market listings

December 07, 2004

Beginning next Tuesday, Dec. 14, we'll be making some changes in the markets pages of the Business section in the weekday and Saturday papers.

While we will reduce the amount of space devoted to markets information by approximately one page per day, we are able to accomplish that without reducing the number of stock and mutual fund listings, or altering the type size or readability of the listings. Many of the changes we are making will be transparent to most readers. And we'll be offering some new features.

Newspapers all over the country have been reducing the amount of space devoted to markets listings as more investors turn to the Internet as their principal source of this information. Some metro newspapers have eliminated listings entirely or required readers to pay extra to receive them.

We are not doing that. Even after these changes, The Sun will present about 2 1/2 pages of markets information each weekday and more than four pages Saturday, which remains considerably more than many newspapers of The Sun's circulation.

Here are some of the changes you will see:

Put and call options listings are being eliminated.

On daily New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq/Amex and mutual fund listings, the one-year return data field is being eliminated.

Some adjustments have been made in the number of listings in top gainers and losers, foreign exchange and futures.

In the weekly mutual fund listings Saturday, the three-year total return field is being eliminated. (The five-year return will remain.)

In the Saturday NYSE stock listings, we are eliminating stock symbols. Year-to-date return will replace trading volume as a data field, and price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) will replace the dividend field. (Yield, a relative measure of dividend payouts, remains as a data field.)

In the Saturday Nasdaq/Amex listings, we are eliminating the ticker symbol, dividend and yield fields, replacing trading volume with P/E ratio, and adding a year-to-date return field.

We are also making two important additions to the listings:

A new box breaking out the daily performance of mutual funds managed by Maryland companies, with more information than we offer on other mutual fund listings.

This box will include nearly all funds offered by the Legg Mason, T. Rowe Price and Calvert fund families, as well as funds offered by the larger local banks and some boutique funds. These listings will not be duplicated in the main tables.

A breakout box with information about the markets features available at our Web site, www.baltimoresun.com.

Decisions about financial listings are difficult for us. Only about 30 percent of our readers turn to them in our newspaper, according to our readership studies, but those who do are intensely interested in them. Our balancing act attempts to preserve as many listings as we can for those readers who care passionately about them while assuring that we can maximize space in the Business section for local and regional news.

To help address your concerns, we've established a new e-mail box - stocks@baltsun.com - where you can send requests for stocks or mutual funds to be added to our main tables, ask questions about our listings, or just express an opinion. I will read every e-mail in this box personally, and requests to add specific stocks or funds will be sent to our vendor, the Associated Press, within 48 hours.

Here are some answers to a few specific questions we expect will come up often for readers:

Q: Are you making the type smaller or less bold, squeezing lines closer together or changing the type face?

A: No.

Q: Why are you eliminating the put and call options?

A: Investors who use this information are typically online investors for whom any such listings in a newspaper are outdated on arrival. Few metro newspapers still carry this information, for that reason.

Q: You're forcing me to go to other sources to get detailed markets information. Why should I have to do that?

A: The mission of The Sun Business section must be reporting and explaining local and regional business news, with an emphasis on content readers cannot get from other media. We understand that markets information is a critical component of a complete business report, but we cannot fulfill our unique mission if we allow it to squeeze core regional content.- Bernie Kohn Assistant Managing Editor/ Business 410-332-6892 bernie.kohn@baltsun.com

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