In a key test of its syndicated lending clout, the new Chase Manhattan Corp. is preparing to drum up commitments from about 50 banks for a $3.7 billion loan for Kmart Corp.

The loan is being watched closely as a gauge of market interest in the struggling retail sector. Kmart lost its investment grade rating in January, and some other retailers - including Caldor Inc. and Edison Brothers - have filed for bankruptcy in recent months.

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