TORONTO - Merrill Lynch HSBC Canada launched the first Canadian online investing platform Tuesday.

Through the unit's Web site, www.mlhsbc.ca, people making a minimum investment of $5,000 will be able to buy equities and mutual funds in any global market.

The site gives investors access to research reports from Merrill Lynch and HSBC Holdings, global economic and strategy research, and market data and news.

"The key to investing is research, research, research, and we want to provide that to our investors," said Peter Hickman, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch HSBC Canada Inc.

The site is to be opened in Australia on Dec. 18. A United Kingdom service is to be begun by March 31. By 2005, Merrill Lynch HSBC said, the service should be available in 20 countries.

Merrill Lynch HSBC Canada is a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch HSBC Ltd. in London. The joint venture was created in April, with Merrill Lynch & Co. supplying back-office order processing and HSBC the banking services.

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