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Stock exchange chief: 'The economy is strong'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange was bullish on the market Sunday, calling for a "war against terrorism in the boardroom" to boost investor confidence and reverse last week's dramatic slump.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its lowest level in nearly four years Friday after months of revelations about questionable accounting practices by some corporations, most notably Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc.

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NYSE chief Dick Grasso told NBC's "Meet the Press" that a small number of bad executives had soured the investing public.

"Investors unfortunately have been disappointed by a number of failures on the part of some companies to be truthful and honest," Grasso said. "But the market has historically always responded to the economy, and the economy is strong."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat who sponsored a bill to tighten controls on corporations and their accounting procedures, said he feared the drop in trust might fuel further declines.

"Business has a bad name right now," he said Saturday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields." "Obviously we've had some very bad actors on the scene."

But Grasso said he was optimistic.

"The fundamentals are there," he said. "Public trust and responsibility need to be restored."

Congress and President Bush have pushed toward legislation in the wake of the corporate scandals.

"It's time to act decisively to bring a new era of integrity to American business," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

House Republicans, who passed a corporate accountability bill earlier this year that included fewer controls and less oversight than the Senate version, appeared to yield to some elements of Sarbanes' bill last week.

But U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, accused the Democrats of dragging their feet and playing politics with the bill, saying it was "a dang shame."

"[Republicans] are concerned about the well-being of the nation," Armey told "Meet the Press." "Anybody that makes this about their politics does the nation and themselves a disservice."




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