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The departing leader of the New York Stock Exchange said Wednesday he expects the downturn in the nation's financial markets to last another six to 18 months.

But John J. Phelan Jr., who steps down Dec. 31 after six years as NYSE chairman, called the three-year industry slump just another business cycle and predicted the markets would be "roaring" again by the mid-1990s.

In an interview in his Wall Street office, Phelan also said the Big Board was on course for a plan to institute limited after-hours trading for the first time in its 198-year-history.

He further said the often-discussed possibility of a merger with the smaller American Stock Exchange likely will be raised again in the future.

Asked when the market might turn around, Phelan said six to 18 months.

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