The Masters of the Universe immortalized by Tom Wolfe in his 1987 novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities" are feeling like mere mortals.

The Wall Street banks known as primary dealers because they get to trade with the Federal Reserve and raise the money that the U.S. government needs to operate are concerned they are being marginalized because of advances in technology. So worried are they that the group wants the Treasury Department to curb the increasingly popular practice by investors of buying bonds directly from the government without their involvement.

In many ways, the request underscores the changing nature of the business, where greater access to information has leveled the playing field between banks and investors, and turned telephones into little more than paperweights. A record 49 percent of Treasury trading was done electronically in 2013, and the amount of debt sold directly to investors at auction rose to 17.7 percent of issuance from 2.5 percent in 2008. The number of primary dealers has shrunk to 22 from the peak of 46 in 1988.

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