Washington Mutual, the U.S. savings and loan slammed by slumping mortgage markets, has held "very preliminary" merger talks with JPMorgan Chase, CNBC has learned.
No deal is imminent but the talks were held fairly recently.
JP Morgan also may be interested in two other regional banks, Suntrust Banks and PNC Financial Services , and is likely to make an acquisition sometime this year.
News of the talks comes as Bank of America announced it will acquire another troubled mortgage lender, CountrywideFinancial , in a $4 billion transaction.
And as Bank of America did with Countrywide, JP Morgan Chase might first invest money in Wamu before any full-scale buyout.
Shares of Washington Mutual jumped sharply following the CNBC report.
WaMu Investors' Edge:
Last month, Washington Mutual said it would slash its dividend, cut more than 3,000 jobs and raise up to $2.5 billion in fresh capital.
The Seattle-based bank also said it expected to report a net loss in the fourth quarter after recording non-cash write-downs of home loans segment goodwill. Wamu said the write-down will not hurt its key capital ratios or liquidity.
Meanwhile, SunTrust said late last month that will give a $1.4 billion boost to two of its money market funds to protect investors from possible losses. The regional banking company also said that its earnings for the fourth quarter will be hurt by material deterioration in market valuations, the outlook for consumer credit quality, Visa litigation and other items.
Reuters contributed to this report