COMPUTER COMPANIES GAIN

COMPUTER COMPANIES GAIN

The strong dollar is making U.S. computers exported to Japan more expensive there, but it's also helping American computer companies by enabling them to import components more cheaply, an industry executive said.

"The U.S. computer industry's relationship with the Japanese economy is a two-way street. It's an importer of components and an exporter of finished systems," said E.M. Ehrlich, vice president, economic and financial planning, at Unisys Corp."In one sense, the movement of the dollar in the first quarter of this year has been very positive," he added, noting that the greenback has weakened considerably against the deutsche mark from the peak levels it reached in the fourth quarter of last year.

When the Berlin Wall opened on Nov. 9, the dollar was worth DM1.85, but it fell to DM1.66 on Feb. 6 when West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced his plans for a one-to-one exchange rate for East German marks in savings accounts.

Although the dollar has since risen once more against the mark to the current rate of DM1.70, Mr. Ehrlich points out that the lower rate since the fall enables U.S. companies to export to the European market more favorably.

That's especially welcome "when Eastern Europe developments suggest a new wave of capital expenditures in Western Europe," he said.

Mr. Ehrlich added that if weakness persists in the Japanese equity markets, some Japanese banks and insurance companies might be forced to raise cash. "There's a risk they would sell the Treasury instruments they've been

accumulating in recent months," he said.

That, in turn, would force the dollar down against the yen.