The dark clouds are looming, but the extent of the storm is yet to be determined for two of the world's top investment firms, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase, both of New York.

Both companies are mulling layoffs that could lead to several thousand employees at each company being ushered out the door. While layoffs have not been confirmed at Merrill, the company is expected to cut up to 2,000 jobs, or about 4%, from its workforce of 50,000. Merrill has already jettisoned 15,000 workers in the past year.

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