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Business in brief: Bank’s earnings down 10 percent

Coeur d’Alene-based Mountain West Bank on Friday announced earnings of $2.8 million for the first quarter, down 10 percent from the same period in 2007.

Mountain West is a division of publicly traded Glacier Bancorp Inc., of Kalispell, Mont.

Mountain West CEO Jon Hippler, in a press release, said earnings after taxes dropped primarily due to “the Federal Reserve’s aggressive cutting of short-term interest rates during the quarter and the lag in the ability of the bank to be able to adjust its short- term liability costs accordingly.”

Total assets were $1.059 billion, an increase of 12.4 percent from March 2007. Loans were $856 million, up 16.6 percent for the same time period. Average deposits and retail repurchase agreements were $689 million, representing a decrease of 0.6 percent from March 2007.

– Tom Sowa


Gulf incident pushes oil higher

Oil prices rose sharply Friday on news that a ship under contract to the U.S. Defense Department fired warning shots at two boats in the Persian Gulf. Retail gas prices as expected rose further into record territory, nearing $3.60 a gallon.

Crude prices rose on initial reports that a U.S. ship had fired on two Iranian boats; the news raised concerns that a conflict between U.S. and Iranian forces could cut oil supplies from the region. A Navy spokeswoman said the origin of the boats was unclear.

The news was enough to send light, sweet crude for June delivery up to $119.55 before the contract retreated to settle up $2.46 at $118.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The incident worried investors because at first it appeared to be the latest in a series of encounters between U.S. forces and Iranian boats in the Gulf. Early this month, the USS Typhoon fired a flare at an Iranian boat that came within about 200 yards of the ship. In January, several Iranian boats made what the Navy described as provocative moves near a U.S. ship in the Strait of Hormuz. And in December the USS Whidbey Island fired warning shots at a small Iranian boat officials said was rapidly approaching the ship.

– Associated Press

Daily News also wants Newsday

The owner of the New York Daily News offered $580 million to acquire Newsday from the Tribune Co., matching a bid earlier in the week by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

A person familiar with the situation, but who declined to be identified because of the confidential nature of the offer, confirmed that real estate developer Mortimer Zuckerman offered $580 million to buy the Long Island daily late Friday.

The source said the deal involved a “significant amount of cash and other considerations,” but would not provide further specifics.

Zuckerman’s Daily News is the rival tabloid to Murdoch’s New York Post.

– Associated Press