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Sony's Third Quarter Is Good, But Questions Remain

Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer said the media and electronics conglomerate had a "very good" holiday season but the current quarter may present challenges.

Economic headwinds could play a part in consumers' decision to buy electronics, such as big-screen televisions and portable navigation devices.

"We had a very good third quarter," Stringer said on the sidelines of a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, referring to the quarter ended Dec. 31.

"The fourth quarter is full of strange unanswerable situations related to unemployment, related to GDP, related to everything else," he said. "So it's too soon for us to be pessimistic, but I read the papers."

Sony, the maker of Cyber-shot digital cameras and Vaio personal computers, has reported encouraging news in recent weeks, including a double-digit increase in U.S. consumer electronics sales in the holiday season.

Its U.S. shares rose 3.2 percent to $54.10 on Monday, after Sony's video games chief, Kaz Hirai, said on Sunday he hopes to turn a profit on Sony's PlayStation 3 console business in the next fiscal year, and after Sony's Blu-ray high-definition DVD format received a boost from a decision by the Warner Bros film studio to exclusively release DVDs using that technology.

At the news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony said that camcorders, along with Bravia TVs helped drive strong sales. So far, Sony said its fortune has not been hurt by the weak U.S. economy, which some economists say is headed for a recession.

Asked by Reuters on Monday if economic jitters has pushed Sony to consider shifting its strategy, Stringer said: "No. Not at the moment. We have got to be aggressive, it's the only way we are going to grow."

Stringer has led a rebound since he was named chief executive of the Tokyo-based conglomerate in 2005.

He set in motion a restructuring program that would cut 10,000 jobs, and is trying to meet a target to boost annual group operating profit margin to 5 percent by the end of the fiscal year to March 2008.

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