Equity Group Holdings, a D.C. investment partnership that owns 15.8 percent of Easco Corp., has received antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to increase its stake in the Baltimore-based hand tools and aluminum firm.

Steven M. Rales and Mitchell P. Rales, the sole partners of Equity Group, have been buying stock in Easco over the last three months, and have been awaiting permission from the FTC to purchase up to 25 percent of Easco's stock with the hope of eventually taking over the firm.

The FTC terminated the 30-day waiting period required under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, an Easco spokesman said yesterday.

The Rales brothers, who have interests in real estate, automobile tires and residential siding, tried to acquire the company on Jan. 4 for $18.50 a share, or about $171.5 million. They already have spent $16.4 million for Easco shares, the partnership told the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But Easco rejected the offer as inadequate on Jan. 9 and sued the Rales and their father, Norman, for allegedly violating securities laws.

Equity Group said on Jan. 14 that it still intended to purchase up to 25 percent of the shares in Easco if it received clearance from the FTC.