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Sony plans online trading venture

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Sony is to team up with US outfit Charles Schwab to launch an online stockbroking system, according to Japanese reports. The service would initially be offered in Japan, where there are already a couple of online trading outfits. According to the reports the joint venture company will be formed before the end of the year, and will offer stock, unit trust and mutual fund trading. Sony however declines to confirm that the project has the green light. But then for Sony it must be a particular difficult question. The company has in the past attempted to extend its reach out from hardware to the 'software' that runs on it, but in the cases of music and movies its investments turned out to be ill-judged. The depressed state of the Japanese economy, together with its special characteristics, also make new financial ventures in Japan problematic. Japanese consumers have large cash reserves salted away in low interest accounts, so the possibility of earning a lot more via stock trading at low commission rates might be attractive to them. But current Japanese stocks might not be attractive to them - perfectly reasonably, as much of Japanese industry doesn't look like much of a bet these days. Sony may build it, and then find the money stays in the mattresses. ®

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