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Global mergers and acquisitions rose to the highest level in four years this quarter, as a surge in U.S. deals provided ground for optimism and salvaged what had been the worst year for takeovers since the financial crisis.

Companies worldwide have announced $691.9 billion in purchases in the final three months of the year, the most since the third quarter of 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While transactions for all of 2012 shrank about 10 percent to $2.19 trillion, the same level as 2010, about $86 billion of telecommunications deals, including Softbank Corp.’s planned purchase of a stake in Sprint Nextel Corp., gave the end of the year a boost.

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