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Yanks take e-trading to Japan, tech stocks ahead of the market

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Sony is talking to Charles Schwab (the largest US online broker, with 5.4 million accounts) about setting up electronic trading in Japan when it is fully deregulated next year. E*Trade is already there in a $20 million joint deal with Softbank. Merrill Lynch also employed 2,000 people made redundant when Yamaichi went bust, and Salomen Smith Barney now has a 25 per cent stake in Nikko Securities. This all points to Americans deciding to help Japanese financial reform from the inside. Tech stocks beat the market generally, with Nasdaq and the Dow marginally up. The market was down strongly in early trading -- thought to represent European selling -- but recovered in the afternoon. Think New Ideas, Inc., a Web advertising and design specialist, didn't, and its Q1 loss warning caused a 21 per cent drop in its shares. The loss was blamed on the "current economic situation" but could it be an early sign that Web advertising has reached saturation? Philips Electronics was marked down ten per cent after it announced a significant decline for Q3 and flat income expectations for 1998. The main problem is the Lucent joint venture, although the semiconductor business (Europe's largest) will have lower margins. In Silicon Valley, semiconductors shares were significantly up: National Semiconductor (4.8 per cent), LSI Logic (9.4 per cent) and Maxim (six per cent), as were disk drive manufacturers such as Seagate (7.5 per cent) and Quantum (9.6 per cent). The Lockheed Martin acquisition of COMSAT, following the DoJ blocking of the proposed marriage with Northrup Grumann for antitrust reasons, will be carefully scrutinised by the FCC. Lockheed shares dropped five per cent. After trading closed, Cabletron announced its Q3 profit fell 75 per cent, attributed to having fallen behind with its technology offerings. The Internet sector showed strong gains for Amazon.com (up 7.3 per cent), Yahoo (5.7 per cent) and AOL (4.6 per cent). Broadcom's new chip news sent its shares up 4.2 per cent. Gateway put on 5.4 per cent. Ascend put on 6.3 per cent because of expected higher sales to telecoms. 3Com gained 5.3 per cent in anticipation of its Q1 results, due tomorrow. Covad Communications, a provider of xDSL (digital subscriber line) service filed an IPO for $143.7 million. ®

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