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Sterling Financial earns $22.9 million


Sterling Financial Corp., the parent company of Sterling Savings Bank, announced on Monday that the company earned $22.9 million for the first quarter of 2007.

Sterling’s earnings amounted to 50 cents per diluted share of stock— up from the same period last year, a company news release said.

The Spokane-based corporation experienced a marked increase in deposits and loans receivable, due in large part to the acquisition of several other banks, but also because of growth within the company.

Total deposits rose to $7.57 billion, a 49 percent increase over the first quarter of 2006. Loans receivable have risen to $8.37 billion — a 59 percent increase over the first quarter of last year.

Acquisitions played a role in the increased net income, loans and deposits. During the past 12 months ending March 31, 2007, Sterling acquired Lynnwood Financial Group, and its subsidiary, Golf Savings Bank, FirstBank NW Corp. and Northern Empire Bancshares and its subsidiary Sonoma National Bank.

The company recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of being traded on NASDAQ.


Sales outlook dim for Big Three automakers

Soft auto sales in April could spell trouble down the road for Detroit’s three automakers as they restructure and try to entice buyers away from strong foreign brands, according to several industry analysts.

Five industry analysts predicted that U.S. sales will be down in April compared with the same month in 2006, and in a down market that continues to shift from trucks to cars, that means trouble for Detroit.

The analysts said there doesn’t seem to be any pent-up demand for vehicles. Consumers either have too much debt, are facing increased payments due to rising adjustable rate mortgages or are waiting to see what happens to gasoline prices.

Under those circumstances, it will be difficult for the Detroit Three to execute their turnaround plans because they’re competing for a shrinking market mainly against Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., which both have strong car brands.

“It’s a very tough environment out there right now,” said Joe Barker, senior manager of global sales analysis for CSM Worldwide, an automotive forecasting firm.

“If you’re undergoing a restructuring at the same time that you’re trying to go after a smaller pool of consumers, it just adds to the complexity of a turnaround plan.”


Ambassadors sees loss in first quarter

Spokane-based Ambassadors Group Inc. reported a first-quarter loss of $4.98 million, or 25 cents a share, from a year-earlier loss of $3.45 million, or 17 cents a share.

Total revenue for the company, which provides educational travel for professionals and students, rose to $7.8 million from $5.4 million in the comparable period last year.

Operating expenses were $12.0 million in the first quarter of 2007 compared to $8.5 million in first quarter of 2006. Company officials said that increase results from sending more travelers abroad, along with increased marketing expenses for 2007 and 2008 campaigns.

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