New fund launches boost IT stocks

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INTERNET-RELATED stocks such as Softbank may rise in Tokyo in this week, as Nomura Asset Management and other firms start funds targeting such shares.

Internet Research Institute and Liquid Audio Japan are expected to meet strong demand from investors on Wednesday when they debut on the new venture set-ups market.

Japanese banks and others responsible for the post-Second World War economic recovery may fall as they sell shares they've held for decades to cement business ties. "Investors will continue to focus on IT shares and rest of the market will be left behind," says Nobuyuki Abe of Nomura Securities sales.

The Nikkei 225 stock average last week fell 176.73, or near 1 per cent, to 18,095.12, a third consecutive weekly loss. The Topix index of all issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section gained 9.61, or 0.6 per cent to 1633.48.

Nomura Asset Management Co will start "i-Focus Open" on Tuesday, which will invest up to 50bn (pounds 303.6m) in IT-related shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Shin-Wako Securities Investment Trust Management will start its Japan Stock Open fund on Wednesday. Investors may also buy computer- related shares, encouraged by strong performance from US counterparts.

"The start of a new market is an epoch-making event, which will determine if Japan can breed a market for new start-up businesses and I'd like to get involved as an investor," said Nishichi Omori, general manager at Sanwa Asset Management, which manages 1 trillion.

Among companies expected to fall are Fuji Bank, Japan's sixth-biggest lender, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the largest heavy machinery maker.

Japanese bonds seem little changed as sales plans for the year from next April are likely to be within market expectations, justifying the current yield. The government is expected to announce about 85 trillion in bond sales for fiscal year 2000. That's 20 per cent up on last year.

Thursday is a national holiday and foreign traders are unlikely to return to work on Friday for just one day before Christmas.