Shares of Dime Bancorp have surged this month, fueled by speculation that rival Greenpoint Financial Corp. was close to an agreement to buy the $18.5 billion-asset New York thrift.

Spokesmen for both Dime and Greenpoint declined to comment, but Salvatore DiMartino, an analyst at Advest Inc., said, "The combination would be a dream franchise in New York."

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