NEW YORK - Although he stopped short of declaring himself bearish, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers President and CEO Robert Doll expects a decline in the capital markets in 2006, and said that the $500 billion asset manager's plan to re-brand its retail mutual funds is moving forward.

Doll, who delivered his annual 10 predictions for the coming year here last week, said Merrill Lynch would formally announce the new name for its funds this quarter with an eye on implementing it in the second quarter. Merrill first announced in November its decision to begin using outside brokers and insurers to sell its retail funds in the U.S. under a non-Merrill name. Since then, its cross-town rival, Morgan Stanley, has hinted that it intends to do the same.

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