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Japan: Yen clocks on for Y2K test

Amidst all their other problems, just how well prepared are Japanese financial institutions for the millennium computer bug? After more than a year of debate and the odd testy exchange between banking officials and information officers across the Pacific some real evidence could soon be at hand.

If the Tokyo fixed-interest markets open at all on December 21 it will be at least a partial vindication of Japanese bankers' and regulators' confidence in the face of mounting criticism from counterparts in the US.

On Sunday December 20, Tokyo's BoJ-Net, which clears 90% of Japan's settlements, will move its clock forward to December 28 1999 and conduct a few hours of simulated trading, it will then march them forward again to January 4 2000, Japan's first business day of the new millennium. The tests will be linked with similar ones by the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the domestic funds-transfer system operated by Zenginkyo, the Japanese bankers' federation.

Eschewing the beta tests adopted in other markets, the Japanese tests will use BoJ-Net and its members' own equipment and software in its simulation. That means there could be mayhem the following Monday if the Japanese confidence is not justified and the experiments cause damage to the underlying system.

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