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Electronic Communication Networks or ECNs offer a theoretically attractive means of pre-market or after-market trading.

Expanded Definition

ECNs started out as individual brokers, but have evolved into discrete stock exchanges that keep a "book" of buy and sell orders. The ECNs act as agents, offering a space where buyers and sellers can display and match their orders, and they claim a flat fee for each transaction as compensation for this service. Most ECNs apparently have no plans to deploy their own capital to buy and sell stocks, something the NYSE specialists are called on to do.

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