As the temperature in New York City rose to 99 degrees last week and fast-food garbage lay strewn about the city's streets, Chemical Bank and the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., two giant banks that likely would have failed, decided to consolidate. New Jersey regulators took over the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co. in the largest insurance seizure on record. Axa, the second-largest French insurance company, injected $1 billion in cash in the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America, the third-biggest insurer in the United States.

It's summertime, but the living ain't easy.

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