SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Announcements of mergers in financial sectors, including banking, exceeded those in other corporate categories in the third quarter, according to the business brokerage and valuation division of Merrill Lynch & Co.

Maintaining a longstanding lead, the banking-finance group accounted for 218 deals, up 74% from 125 in the period a year earlier. But the value of the announced transactions fell 23% to $13.4 billion, from $17.5 billion.

Jody Beutler, research manager of Merrill Lynch Business Brokerage and Valuation, said the activity reflected the industry's continued consolidation efforts, even though the size of deals declined.

Nationwide, mergers and acquisitions rose 36% to 692 in the latest quarter, while the value declined 29% to $20.8 billion.

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