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Asian Markets Jump; No Y2K Problems

January 3, 2000

Shaking off lingering Y2K worries, two big Asian stock markets soared to new heights Monday in the first dealings of the year 2000 that failed to produce the technological meltdown many had feared.

Europeans returned to work to find that energy supplies and corporate computer systems were operating smoothly, and on the first day of trading after the holidays, the leading stock index in Germany boomed to a historic high.

Asia was the first region back in business, and people from nations rich and poor were breathing a collective sigh of relief after seeing most things working just fine.

``The Y2K concerns have declined quite rapidly,″ said Soh Meng Hui, the top stock analyst at Kuala Lumpur City Securities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ``Before, investors stayed on the sidelines not investing in any stocks. Now that the fear is over, they’ll come into the market.″

Some fax machines in the Philippines were flashing the wrong date Monday _ a far cry from an 80-year-old cult leader’s prediction about the world ending with ``an all-consuming rain of fire.″

A few minor Y2K problems cropped up in Hong Kong, including government computers that would not display the correct date, but officials said no records were lost and everything kept running smoothly. In mainland China, slight troubles plagued the Meteorological Bureau systems.

Other isolated glitches, including train ticket machines that failed in Hong Kong and a stock data system that malfunctioned in a local brokerage house, were not related to the millennium bug whose dangers seem to have been blown vastly out of proportion.

In Norway, a glitch on the Oslo Stock Exchange’s home page showed the last day of trading for some stocks as 1/1-1900. However, the problem had nothing to do with Y2K.

An exchange official, Tor-Arne Olsen, said the problem, which had no effect on trading, occurred because the computer looked for stocks traded on New Year’s Day, when the exchange was closed.

``There was no data, so numbers were replaced with ’00′,″ he said.

Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Poland reported no Y2K problems. Britain’s financial markets were closed Monday, but the government’s Cabinet Office reported ``business as usual.″

Switzerland’s banks noted no signs of abnormalities after booting up their computers. As in London, trading on the Zurich stock exchange would not begin until Tuesday, so some uncertainty remained about whether the Y2K bug could hamper trading operations there.

In Frankfurt, Germany, the index of the top 30 German blue chips rose 2.8 percent to a record 7,159.33 in the first hour of trading, before giving back about half those gains by midday.

Asia’s biggest market, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, wasn’t to reopen until Tuesday, but prices on the region’s second and third largest markets, Hong Kong and Singapore, quickly jumped into record territory after ringing out 1999 with all-time high finishes on Thursday.

``The market has been going on a rampage for the past two weeks,″ said John Yap, a dealer at Kay Hian Pte Ltd. in Singapore. ``We’re seeing a continuation of that bullish sentiment here more than anything else.″

Singapore’s Straits Times Index jumped 103.36 points, or 4.2 percent, to close at 2,582.94.

Hong Kong prices rose in the morning, then roared ahead in the afternoon. The Hang Seng Index finished with a gain of 407.53 points, or 2.4 percent, at 17,369.63.

On Sunday evening, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade both opened electronic trading without a hitch.

The Y2K bug can affect older computers that read dates only by the last two digits of the year, and can malfunction if they misinterpret 00 as 1900 rather than 2000.

Electronic ticket-issuing machines for Hong Kong’s Airport Express trains stopped working in three stations on Sunday, but a spokeswoman for the territory’s MTR system blamed human error _ someone forgot to enter data that needs to be updated every six months.

A Filipino physicist, Jorge Bocobo, called the Y2K fears a hoax that delivered enormous profits to consultants and companies that sold cures for the bug.

``The overwhelming majority of the global public was suckered into believing a major computer glitch would send the world into a tailspin,″ the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Bocobo as saying.

``It isn’t taking any time at all for most folks to realize that the Y2K bug scare was the biggest scam, hoax and myth of the late 20th century all rolled into one.″

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