WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Stocks of both bidders for Wachovia Corp. fell along with other bank stocks on Tuesday, but those of SunTrust Banks Inc. fell more, briefly giving First Union Corp. a financial edge for the first time since the three-way merger battle began May 14.

SunTrust's stock came back slightly at the end of the day, however, and the companies' bids are now of equal market value.

Both Atlanta-based SunTrust and Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union have offered stock to buy Wachovia, so share price fluctuations affect their bids. SunTrust's offer of 1.08 shares for each Wachovia share initially was worth $70.60 a share, or 16.7% more than First Union's bid. But SunTrust shares have fallen about 7%, and First Union's shares have risen about 10%.

SunTrust's shares fell 0.3% Tuesday, First Union's 0.2%.

Wachovia shares have been rising steadily, meanwhile, helped by share repurchases. Its stock is up about 10% since SunTrust entered the bidding.

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