UPDATE: HK Exchange, Banks Run Smoothly

HONG KONG (01/03/2000) - In their first regular business day of operation since the Year 2000 rollover, the engines of Hong Kong's economy were reported running smoothly, unaffected by four apparently minor problems that hit local government agencies.

Morning trading today on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong went smoothly, with no apparent Year 2000-related problems, according to an exchange representative.

Likewise, Hong Kong's Monetary Authority, which oversees banks in this Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, did not receive reports of any problems from the widely-feared computer glitch, according to an agency spokesman.

Banks' tests of all functions, including interaction with banks elsewhere, ran smoothly, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the SAR government reported a handful of likely Year 2000-related problems but said they did not significantly hamper services.

Computers at three agencies -- the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department, Auxiliary Medical Services and the Civil Service Training and Development Institute -- failed to display the correct date, according to a government statement.

In addition, police were unable to automatically enter birthdates into breath analyzers used in drink-driving investigations, the government said. Police are able to enter birthdates manually.

A government representative said officials are studying the problems to determine their causes.

An executive in charge of Year 2000 preparations at one banking company said it was not yet time to relax.

Bank of East Asia runs several banks worldwide, so its Year 2000 team will have to brace for problems at least one more time around, said Ronald Li, head of the company's organization and productivity department.

"We are doing monitoring work around the clock," Li said. "Some locations have today as a holiday, so in those locations, our operations still are not open for business."

However, the news so far is encouraging, he said.

"In general, we are quite happy with our transition through to the new millennium," Li said.

Nevertheless, banks today don't stand alone, so the company's preparations included bracing itself for failures across the global banking network, Li added.

"The banks indeed have done a great deal in mitigating that sort of risk," Li said. Bank of East Asia limited its deposits in some countries that had received low ratings for preparation, Li said. Fortunately, so far it hasn't encountered any problems on the banking network, he added.

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