WASHINGTON:

IN FIVE YEARS of prosecuting crooks, Gerald M. Stern bested Charles Keating, Don Dixon, and Swaleh Nagvi. Last week the Justice Department closed down his office. Page 2

DELORA JEE, the new deputy comptroller for the western United States, is trying to do a balancing act, smoothing out the banker-regulator relationship while and taking a hard look at the risks facing national banks in her district. Page 4

REGIONAL BANKING:

BANKAMERICA will create a $100 million equity fund for low-income housing in nine states. It's also adding $40 million to its commitment to other housing programs. Page 8

FIFTH THIRD has started program to help companies rid themselves of odd-lot shareholders. Its objective: fee income.

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MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES:

LAST MARCH was Merchants Bancshares' darkest hour. Since then the future has brightened for the Vermont community bank, but its run to daylight hasn't been painless.

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CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs:

THE PULSE electronic banking network plans to cut switching costs and rebate $1.5 million of 1995 fees to financial institutions.

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TECHNOLOGY:

VISA is officially launching E-Pay, its fully electronic processing system for consumer-initiated bill payments. It will also announce the names of at least 11 banking companies - including Banc One, Barnett, Chase, Crestar, First Interstate, and First Chicago NBD - that have committed to using E-Pay.

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BANK SYSTEMS STOCKS keep reaching for new heights, as investors seemingly unlimited appetite for technology issues continued to defy Wall Street bears.

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MORTGAGES:

NORWEST MORTGAGE has put a longtime executive in charge of its entire sales group, one of the largest of its kind in the industry, with 3,000 loan officers and 700 branches in 50 states. Page 24

U.S. BANCORP plans to focus on improving relations with mortgage customers - reversing its current emphasis on high-volume, low-price originations.

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COMMUNITY BANKING:

TEXAS BANKERS who finance cotton, one of the state's biggest crops, are praying that next year's harvest won't be a repeat of this year's worm- infested devastation.

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A MERGER agreement that would create a $3.1 billion-asset thrift with the ninth-largest market share in the Chicago area is getting mixed reviews. MAF Bancorp plans to pay $277 million for N.S. Bancorp.

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CREDIT UNIONS:

A CALIFORNIA JUDGE overturned the ouster by Patelco Credit Union of the head of a committee probing allegations of management abuse.

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A WAR for students' wallets has broken out between banks and credit unions at some California and Minnesota college campuses. Page 31

INVESTMENT PRODUCTS:

BANKS IN the retirement plan business are beginning to feel the impact of a Labor Department investigation into how employee contributions are safeguarded.

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ANOTHER BATCH of key players have emerged in the contest to control the investment businesses of the soon-to-be-merged Chase and Chemical.

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FINANCE:

JAPANESE BANKS' loan losses could reach $1.4 trillion, according to a report issued by Veribanc.

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THE PRICE a partridge in a pear tree an all the rest is down 21.7% since last December. That's the first signficant decline since PNC began its Christmas price index in 1984.

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