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Markets Shrug Off Dow Drop

Merger talk between two leading Japanese banks sounded sweet to investor ears and most Asian stock markets were higher on Thursday despite an overnight drop on Wall Street. Tokyo shares climbed by 0.2 percent.

Two of Japan's largest banks, Sumitomo Bank and Sakura Bank, said on Thursday they were in merger talks. If they join, it will create the world's second largest bank.

"The Bank of Japan decision yesterday and news on Sakura and Sumitomo Bank were the strong buying factors," said an equities strategist at a local brokerage. "That's why the market wasn't that discouraged by Wall Street's weak overnight performance."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 1.8 percent at 10232.16 on Wednesday in a volatile trading day, wiping out last week's 376.76-point advance. It was the second-straight day of large Dow declines.

Taking their cue from Tokyo, European markets were also unaffected by the Dow drop. Share prices on the London Stock Exchange were slightly higher at midday Thursday. At noon, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100-share index was up 17.9 points at 6,131.3.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 0.1 percent higher at 12,486.82 after bargain-hunting offset the effects of an unexpectedly weak government land auction.

The Nikkei ended at 17,780.26, up 25.77 points but below the key 18,000 threshold. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 1.2 percent to close at 866.02 after a rally in brokerage shares more than wiped out early losses stemming from Wall Street.

Faith in the island's technologies pushed Taiwan's TAIEX up 0.6 percent despite Wall Street's falls and fresh U.S. anti-dumping penalties on locally made computer memory chips.

Australia's benchmark All Ordinaries index closed down 0.2 percent at 2901.3 after a late, Asian markets-inspired rally helped cut earlier losses, traders said.

Singapore's Straits Times index, which fell to an early low of 2,077.15, closed up 0.8 percent at 2,112.54 on selective buying.

New Zealand's main index closed up 1.6 percent at 2,128.48, with brokers reporting enthusiastic buying which pushed trading volumes through NZ$150 million.

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