SUPERMARKETS ENTERED the financial-service arena this year in ways as varied as the retailers themselves. Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., began the year by seeing its application to start an industrial loan company — a banking entity owned by a non-bank — stalled for at least a year by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s refusal to back it. The retailer followed this blow by withdrawing its application and, in June, aggressively embarking on a financial-service program, installing ...

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