Selling Socks and Stocks

American bankers, already worried about steep interest rates and shaky loans, had yet another reason to feel edgy last week. Sears, Roebuck and Co., the largest U.S. retailer, launched a new offensive in its campaign to become a major force in the financial services business. In eight stores, from Atlanta to Los Angeles, the company opened the first branches of its Sears Financial Network, a kind of supermarket where shoppers can buy stocks, bonds, insurance and houses, or even open up Individual Retirement Accounts.

If these experimental boutiques are successful, Sears is expected to expand the new business to the rest of...

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