Maybe it's just California dreamin,' but there's a chance that Washington Mutual Inc.'s planned merger with American Savings Bank will at last start a big merger wave rolling across the Golden State.

The deal, the biggest merger ever of two thrifts, puts a respected, out- of-state institution's imprimatur on buying big thrifts in California. It also shows that such deals can please the buyer's shareholders. Washington Mutual's stock soared 16% the day the merger was announced.

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