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Around the World's Markets: Tokyo

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.

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.