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Trading begins today on a new NASDAQ stock market, but it's not for just any old traders. To take part, you have to be an institutional investor with at least a hundred million dollars in assets.

NPR Scott Horsley takes a look.

SCOTT HORSLEY: NASDAQ's new PORTAL platform is the financial equivalent of an exclusive beach, but there's no lifeguard on duty, so investors better be able to swim. The companies, whose stock is traded on the new market, are under less federal scrutiny than ordinary public companies. You don't have to publish financial reports or meet other regulations because the well-heeled investors, who participate in the exchange are expected to look out for themselves. The Securities and Exchange Commission has allowed these kinds of private stock sales since 1990.

NASDAQ's John Jacob says in recent years, they've soared in popularity.

Mr. JOHN JACOB (Senior Vice President, Digital River, Inc.): Companies have raised more capital in this market than on NASDAQ, New York and AMMEX. So this is how companies are raising capital in the U.S., but it is not a very efficient way for those investors to trade their investment.

HORSLEY: Until now, institutional investors could only trade such stock through direct negotiation with one another. NASDAQ's new market provides an electronic clearinghouse where they can find buyers, sellers and up-to-date prices. Jacobs thinks most companies will use PORTAL as a stepping-stone to the public markets, not a substitute for them.

Mr. JACOB: I think that, within a couple of years, eight out of 10 companies that have gone IPO in the U.S. will have gone through PORTAL first.

HORSLEY: About 600 private companies signed up for trading on PORTAL's opening day.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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