Washington Mutual Inc.'s planned acquisition of American Savings Bank would bring together two of the thrift industry's most aggressive brokerage programs, creating another large competitor in the increasingly cutthroat California market.

The deal, which is expected to close this year, would increased Washington Mutual's brokerage and insurance sales force to 420 licensed employees. The Seattle-based thrift would be able to market its well- respected proprietary mutual funds and annuities to consumers in seven states, including American Savings' home market of California.

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