WASHINGTON:

IT'S NOT QUITE the "fresh start" thrifts wanted, but legislation to be taken up Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee would free them from paying back taxes on most, if not all, of the bad debt reserves they have accumulated over the past 42 years. Page 2

LEGISLATION pending in the House would require creditors to consider a bill paid on the date it was mailed - a move banks say would cost them a fortune. Page 3

INVESTMENT PRODUCTS:

PAUL HONDROS, president of Fidelity Investments' institutional services unit, says his marketing separately to banks' trust departments and retail brokers works because "right now we're the only firm that understands both businesses." Page 14

SUNTRUST BANKS of Atlanta is has introduced its own line of variable annuities.

Page 15

REGIONAL BANKING:

HEALTHIER LOCAL economies boosted loan volume and helped push up third-quarter earnings at many large regional. Page 6

COMMUNITY BANKING:

STOCKING A BOARD with inside directors is one way of achieving harmony and support for a chief executive. But how many inside directors should a bank's board have? The fewer, the better, observers say. Page 7

A POLITICAL merry-go-round in Kansas has knocked a bank commissioner from office and returned his predecessor after a four-year hiatus. Page 7

MORTGAGES:

FROM FOOT MASSAGES to stuffed lions to temporary tattoos, there was plenty going on in the exhibition hall at the Mortgage Bankers Association of America annual conference. Page 8

CALIFORNIA FORECLOSURES are leveling off after soaring for four years. Analysts cite gains in employment, up a percent or two. "Obviously, you won't end up in foreclosure if you have a job and can continue to pay your mortgage," said a TRW analyst.

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CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs:

VISA's INTERLINK on-line debit network has eliminated fees for independent sales organizations that are registered to sell the card association's other services. Page 16

CREDIT CARD ISSUERS attending a point of sale conference were reassured that debit services won't cannibalize their businesses. Page 16

TECHNOLOGY:

CHEMICAL AND CHASE have decided that the new, post-merger Chase would use Chemical's retail deposit and customer service systems.

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BANK OF BOSTON has developed software to let corporate trading partners exchange letter-of-credit documentation electronically.

Page 18

FINANCE:

"BEAR HUG LETTERS" from uninvited suitors have become more common lately, but they're seldom a cause for alarm, says the co-leader of Goldman Sachs' financial institutions group.

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