In the wake of the two major bank acquisitions announced thus far in February, it is becoming clear that strategic priorities - not trading values - are driving the merger market.

The point is important, since many market observers have hinged a merger revival on the resurgence of trading values among predatory institutions. Unless superregionals such as Banc One Corp. again gain a pronounced trading advantage over weaker rivals, the conventional argument goes, the merger market will remain sluggish.

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