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Asian Markets Update: News of E-Commerce Ventures Boosts Major Indices

Softbank steals the show in Tokyo with its announcement of a new online bank venture.

TOKYO -- Internet conglomerate Softbank stole the show in Tokyo Thursday when it announced a new online venture with a regional bank. Coupled with news that retail-chain operator Ito-Yokado (IYCOY) plans to speed up its banking venture plans, Internet, technology and bank shares all closed higher.

Much talk surrounded Softbank today, but it was all deemed positive. The firm's subsidiary

Softbank Finance

announced plans to form an online bank branch with

Suruga Bank

, a regional financial institution. Softbank is also on the top of the list to acquire the nationalized

Nippon Credit Bank

, according to local reports, in a bid to spread its Internet knowledge and influence to the financial sector.

In addition, Softbank and

Lehman Brothers


will launch an electronic Japanese bond trading system late in the second quarter of 2000. Softbank also said late Wednesday it plans to list its subsidiary

E*Trade Japan Securities

on the soon-to-be-launched

Nasdaq Japan

bourse in the third quarter. Softbank rose 2000, or 2.15%, to 94,900. (Softbank owns shares of the

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through its unit

Softbank Technology Ventures


Ito-Yokado, which is busy trying to bolster revenues by building its own banking operation, said it would install automatic teller machines at its 7000 outlets within five years of starting the bank. The firm estimates each outlet will cull 95 fund transfers a day, leaving a net profit of 9 billion yen ($85.3 billion) for its bank operations in those five years. Shares rose 280, or 2.9%, to 9900.

Details revealed by Softbank and Ito-Yokado lifted many tech and banking shares.

Sanwa Bank


climbed 68, or 6.5%, to 1108,

Sumitomo Bank


rose 40, or 2.9%, to 1436, while

Mitsubishi Electric


jumped 51, or 7.3%, to 746.

In addition,


(SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report

-- which this week reported earnings -- rose 760, or 3.0%, to 26,240. Although profits between October and December fell 17% from the previous year to 93.63 billion yen, it was better than the market had expected.

The benchmark

Nikkei 225

stock index erased morning losses to close up 98.53, or 1.3%, to 19,209.72, while the


index, comprising shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section climbed 21.81, or 1.3%, to 1685.90. The


small-cap index rose 3.46, or 3.6%, to 99.72, and the Nikkei


shares rose 49.14, or 2.2%, to 2237.75.

"Market sentiment remains pretty high, but trading of futures contracts have been minimal. That makes me think cash might lull around the 19,000 range for Friday as well," said one futures trader at a U.S. house. He sees Nikkei March futures, traded on the

Osaka Stock Exchange

, reaching a high of 19,310 tomorrow after closing at 19,180.

Currency trading was slim, as the greenback hovered around 105.55 yen and the euro hit $0.9995, before recovering to $1.0002.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index finished up 490.09, or 3.2%, to 15,917.81, buoyed by a recent announcement by index heavyweights on their new e-commerce ventures.

Hutchison Whampoa


rose 5.550, or 5.1%, to 113.000, while

Pacific Century Cyberworks

closed up 1.000, or 56%, to 18.850.



index rose 23.69, or 2.7%, to 909.23 as retail investors bargain-hunted technology and blue-chips shares.