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In brief: Sterling Savings Bank to offload six branches to Banner Bank

Sterling Savings Bank is paying $7 million to offload six Oregon branches to Banner Bank.

The deal is tied to Sterling’s pending sale to Portland-based Umpqua Holdings Corp. That merger is under review by federal banking regulators, who required Sterling to divest the Oregon branches.

The deal puts Walla Walla-based Banner Bank in control of 28 percent of the banking business in Coos County, Oregon, where five of the six branches are located. The other is in neighboring Douglas County.

Umpqua already has multiple branches in the county along Oregon’s southern coastline.

The branches have combined deposits of $226 million and $95 million in loans.

Gap plans to increase minimum wage to $10

NEW YORK – Clothing chain Gap said it will raise the minimum hourly wage for its U.S. employees to $10 in 2015.

The San Francisco company said Wednesday that the minimum wage for workers at all of its brands will be raised to $9 an hour in 2014 and $10 an hour in 2015. Gap said the increases will affect about 65,000 store employees.

Gap Inc.’s stores include Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and Old Navy.

Lehman settlement with Freddie Mac OK’d

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has approved Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s $767 million settlement with Freddie Mac – an agreement that releases hundreds of millions of dollars to return to the failed investment bank’s creditors.

Freddie Mac was seeking a claim over $1.2 billion in loans that it made to Lehman before its collapse.

Lehman’s bankruptcy in 2008 was the biggest in U.S. history and helped set off the financial crisis.

As part of the agreement announced Wednesday, Freddie Mac will hand over loan information that allows Lehman to pursue claims against mortgage originators for alleged misrepresentation.

Home construction declines 16 percent

WASHINGTON – U.S. home construction fell in January for a second month, but the weakness in both months reflected severe winter weather in many parts of the country. The expectation is that housing will deliver another year of solid gains, helped by an improving economy.

The Commerce Department said builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent.

Applications for building permits fell in January for a third month, dropping 5.4 percent to a rate of 937,000.