REGIONAL BANKING: BANC ONE CORP. is noncommittal about whether it will exercise its option to buy Premier Bancorp after June 30. But G. Lee Griffin, chairman of the still-growing Louisiana company, says: "I don't think they're going to let our bank get away." Page 4 RATINGS OF U.S. banks will diverge more sharply as the current cycle of improved earnings draws to an end, according to the credit rating agency IBCA Inc. Page 5 WASHINGTON: A HOUSE Banking subcommittee today takes up legislation that supporters contend would save the government hundreds of millions annually by replacing the dollar bill with a coin. Page 3 REP. RICK LAZIO managed to bring the American Bankers Association and Independent Insurance Agents of America together over breakfast last week. And while the warring groups didn't lock arms on banking and insurance, as he had hoped, at least they didn't lock horns. Page 3 COMMUNITY BANKING: THE CUSTOMER base for its four small rural banks was shrinking, so Iowa's First Citizens Financial Corp. merged them and established new headquarters in more urban Mason City - population 30,000. Page 6 MORTGAGES: VETERAN LENDERS are complaining of too-aggressive pricing by several newer originators of home loans to borrowers with marred credit histories. Page 8 HOUSING BECAME slightly less affordable in the first quarter because of rising interest rates, according to the National Association of Realtors. Page 8 INVESTMENT PRODUCTS: INVEST FINANCIAL Corp. has taken a key step to ensure that its client banks won't feel aftershocks from the breakup of its parent, Kemper Corp. Page 12 CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs: IN THEIR LATEST joint appearance before a card industry conference, the presidents of MasterCard and Visa added some notes of hard reality to their often-expressed optimism regarding new technologies. Page 16 SAFECARD SERVICES' chairman didn't have time to savor shareholder approval of a restructuring plan and new holding company name - he was too busy denying claims of SEC violations contained in a Wall Street Journal ad placed by the firm's ousted founder. Page 17
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