Fidelity better hope it can keep up with the ever-faster pace of trades on the Internet because in the first week of March, the Boston-based mutual fund company ran a series of print ads bragging it has not had any online outages, as some of its competitors have. The ads ran headlines saying: "If you're tired of online hype and want reliable service, consider Fidelity Brokerage."

The company also issued a press release saying it "delivers 100 percent online trading systems availability during 1999" even though the first quarter of the year is not even over.

Granted, Fidelity's systems have so far been able to take the heat: average daily online trading by Fidelity's retail accounts has grown from 35,800 in December, to 56,000 in January, to 83,000 in February, the company said. That represented 26 percent of all of Fidelity's mutual fund transactions in February and 71 percent of all of the firm's equity trades.

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