WASHINGTON - National banks' authority to sell insurance in small towns should be extended to include low-income communities, said Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig.

"Residents of these neighborhoods experience the same problems as small-town residents in buying insurance - or in buying insurance at competitive prices," said Mr. Ludwig. "I will work to expand the ability of banks to provide insurance in low-income areas."

Mr. Ludwig's statement should provide support for a provision in the community development bank bill proposed by Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, that would expand bank insurance authority to low-income communities.

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