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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 15:54 GMT
'Business as usual' in Y2K
Banks and businesses around the world seem to have escaped the first bite of the millennium bug.
From Auckland to Los Angeles, companies and financial watchdogs reported that computer systems were working smoothly. Around the world, stock exchanges conducted mock-trading sessions that went without a glitch.
Some doomsayers had predicted widespread computer failures that would trigger a collapse of telecoms and electricity networks and cause devastation to the world economy.
The predictions have not come true - yet.
A massive investment, estimated at $500bn world-wide, may have averted the failure of key systems, but experts say that the real test for the so-called Y2K bug will come on Monday and Tuesday, when workers return to offices and production lines and switch on their computers.
An accumulation of small glitches, with individual PCs spewing wrong data and machines malfunctioning, could yet prove to be costly.
Gartner Group, a consultancy specialising in technology research, is predicting that fewer than 10% of all Y2K-related failures will occur during the first two weeks of the millennium. More than half of problems would hit during the rest of the year.
Gartner Group analyst Andy Kyte compared the bug with a "debilitating disease" that would gradually weaken computer systems before finally toppling them.
Asia first to give all-clear
New Zealand and Australia were the first major economies to make the transition to the new millennium and report that the date change had made no impact.
The central banks in both countries said that their banking systems had handled the changeover without any problems.
The Sydney stock exchange said it had successfully completed Y2K tests on its internal systems and external tests with almost all market participants.
In Hong Kong, the stock exchange completed two mock trading sessions without any problem.
Japan's Financial Supervisory Agency said there were "no reports of disorders related to Y2K affecting financial institutions' customers and operations".
Singapore, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and other key economies in the region were quick to give the all-clear as well.
Europe, Americas glitch-free
This was encouraging news for staff manning Y2K crisis centres in Europe and the Americas.
There big business and financial institutions had deployed a vast army of computer experts to tackle any malfunction.
They had to watch two millennium bug deadlines, for systems operating on Greenwich Mean Time, and those making the switch at midnight local time.
But both times, computers were working normal, whether in Moscow, New York, Frankfurt or London's City.
Instead of going through thousands of lines of computer code, information technology experts could pop champagne corks while listening to the quiet hum of their computers.
The assessment of Philippe Giraud-Sauveur of the French Banking Association was typical: "We have not found any problems at all."
Cash dispensers and bank card payment authorisation systems were working fine, he said.
A spokeswoman for the European Central Bank said that tests of the eurozone's payment system Target had revealed "no problems so far".
With the exception of Bangladesh and Oman, all stock markets were closed. In Dhaka stocks ended their first session of the year slightly up in quiet trade, extending a market rally for a seventh straight session.
But even though most exchanges held successful mock-trading sessions, the real test for computer networks will come on Monday, when the world's big financial markets re-open.
In the United States, the Bond Market Association said it expected "normal business on Monday".
London's City has an extra day to get ready, because Monday has been declared a bank holiday.
The Bank for International Settlements said central and commercial banks across the world had reported no Y2K disruption.
"Everything has been going great throughout the world. No problem", said Carol Wallace of Gartner Group.
'Business as usual'
"A lot of companies are not really going to be sharing that kind of information. If there are going to be any glitches, we're probably going to hear about them next week."
The world's largest computer maker, IBM, reported that all the company's "internal computer systems are operating as they should around the world".
US banking giant Citigroup was similarly optimistic. A spokesman said it was "business as usual". The company spent some $950m to fight the millennium bug, more than any other firm.
But it will be small and mid-sized companies that may be hit hardest by the bug's impact. They are big enough to need computer systems to function but too small to have done a lot in advance to remedy any computer problems.
Gartner Group's Andy Kyte said these companies would "need to be most nimble to put in alternative mechanisms".
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