NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks turned higher this afternoon, with speculation about another potential merger in the financial industry boosting the blue-chip sector.

At 2 p.m. on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 41.85 at 9,118.42 after erasing an earlier 23-point deficit.

Broad-market indicators also struggled higher after slipping during the morning.

American Express rose 4 1/8 to 106 1/2 to lead the Dow's advance after Business Week said the company might merge with American International Group to compete with Citigroup, the financial services behemoth that would be created by the Citicorp-Travelers Group merger announced two Mondays ago.

Today's merger speculation helped overshadow renewed concerns that Japan will fail to revive its ailing economy, hampering efforts to stabilize other troubled Asian markets. For the second day in a row, Japanese stocks were battered, with the Nikkei stock average dropping 1.1 percent.

Advancing issues led decliners by a narrow margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 450.18 million shares, down from Thursday's blistering pace.

The Standard & Poor's 500 list was up 8.09 at 1,116.26, and the NYSE composite index was up 4.14 at 581.05.

The Nasdaq composite index was up 2.21 at 1,860.45, and the American Stock Exchange composite index was up 4.06 at 743.41.

In Europe, Frankfurt's DAX index fell 1.0 percent and London's FT-SE 100 fell 1.3 percent.