It calls itself America's strongest bank - but compared with some of its competitors, UMB Financial of Missouri seems a weak sister. Page 4

Bank United of Houston agreed to take over 50 supermarket bank branches in Texas that BankAmerica plans to close in April. Page 4


Domestic high-yield issuance picked up last month, but not enough to convince most observers that junk bonds have made a full comeback. Page 5


As banks and insurers buy third-party marketing firms, some small banks find they're suddenly doing business with a competitor. Page 6


Consumers are accumulating debt at a rate so frightening that there is a danger they will not be able to keep up with payments, says a St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank economist. Page 10


The government's know-your-customer proposal has taken a nose dive. Since bank regulators issued their proposal in December, there has been a flood of angry comment letters and caustic media reports. But Rep. Marge Roukema says the "overreaching" rule should be rewritten, not killed. Page 2

The National Credit Union Administration let four small credit unions sharply increase their fields of membership. Page 3


HNC Software shelved plans to buy Open Solutions, a provider of core processing software to banks, amid concerns about the drag the deal might have on already slowing earnings. Page 12


The Independent Bankers Association of America is urging Congress and the Clinton administration to pledge more aid to farmers. Page 13


The recent construction boom may be a mixed blessing for first-time homebuyers. The rising cost of residential development is reducing affordability in several U.S. markets. Page 15

A former Wharton professor launched a Web site designed to help neophyte borrowers troll for mortgages. Page 15


Analysts and investors are scratching their heads about Merrill Lynch's near-term prospects. Page 24

Money-centers are no longer the pariahs of the fixed-income market. Spreads on their bonds have slowly narrowed as some investors have been drawn to bargain-basement prices and attractive yields. Back page

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