Banking stocks made sizeable gains amid merger speculation, although a sharp fall in Japanese bond prices later in the day took the some of the shine off the sector - banks are among the major holders of Japanese bonds. Analysts attributed the bond price tumble to position-squaring ahead of a scheduled policy announcement from the Bank of Japan.
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TOKYO'S BENCHMARK share index ended modestly higher, helped by strong gains in the banking sector. The Nikkei finished up 21.99 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 13,973.69.