Bankers looking for relief from short-sellers won a skirmish Wednesday as the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed to explore ways of restricting short sales of stock. Now comes the real fight: moving beyond the blanket argument that the measures would boost investor confidence and convincing the agency that there is a tangible economic reason to take action.

The agency's commissioners voted unanimously to consider a list of proposals including the return of an uptick rule, which would allow investors to sell a stock short only at a price above the last trade, or establishing a "bid-up" rule, a similar price test that would be based instead on the last bid. But several commissioners indicated that the burden of proof would rest with proponents of the short-selling restrictions, upping the ante as the agency gets set to begin a 60-day public comment period on the proposals.

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