Around the World's Markets: New York

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MOST SHARES began drifting lower in afternoon trading but further gains in leading shares had edged the Dow Jones index 17 points higher to break through the 9,000 line by midday, ahead of the FOMC meeting on interest rates.

Merck, IBM, and Proctor & Gamble were all firmer, but the S&P 500 index was barely steady. Nasdaq, with its strength in hi-tech stocks, was down on the morning trading after another record closing high on Monday.