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With Greenspanitis looming over Wall Street and Tokyo yesterday, in anticipation of an interest rate cut to be announced by the Fed today, little attention was paid to the biggest bankruptcy in Japanese history: an affiliate of the Long-Term Credit Bank went under owing more than $17 billion. Despite this, Tokyo and the Dow were up one per cent, although Nasdaq was marginally down. The distraction was the prospect of cheaper dollars and consequent exchange rate changes. Surprisingly, PC sales in Japan have been going up for quite a few weeks now. RealNetworks put on 15 per cent after it announced its AOL distribution deal, and Internet darlings Amazon.com and Excite went up eight per cent and seven per cent, respectively. Varian Associates said it would not meet expectations for its current fiscal Q4 (ending 2 October) because of a "lingering depression" in its semiconductor business. CEO Tracy O'Rourke said he expected the chip equipment slump to last another four to six quarters. In preparation for the setting up of two new companies from existing divisions early next year, Varian will take a $6 million charge in fiscal Q4. Sumitomo Corporation Group made a surprise investment in Softway Systems of San Francisco. Softway has a product called Interix which is said to aid those changing from Unix to NT, and not surprisingly was developed in a long-term agreement with Microsoft. It's strange that Microsoft itself did not come forward. Could it be that all Microsoft's lawyers are busy on other matters? The size of the investment was not disclosed, but it does not give Sumitomo control -- just a seat on the board. Sumitomo has 719 subsidiaries and associated companies. Apparently four Sumitomo Corporation Group members participated in the investment. That's risk spreading for you. ® click for more stories

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