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Local banks had strong stock performance in 2017

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 12, 2018, 6:18 p.m.

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Local banks’ stock prices shot up in 2017, reflecting growth in the Inland Northwest’s economy.

The share price for Washington Trust Bank’s parent company grew by 38.8 percent last year, making it the top performer among nine publicly traded companies tracked by Hart Capital Management, of Spokane.

Idaho Independent Bank finished third, with a 28.8 percent gain in share price, according to the Hart Capital index. Northwest Bancorp was fourth with a 22.6 percent gain.

Commercial banks benefited from rising interest rates and strong loan growth from regional business activity, said Craig Hart, Hart Capital’s president and chief investment officer. Banks also will benefit from the federal tax reform, which cut the corporate tax rate, he said.

Avista Corp. also had a strong performance in 2017. The Spokane-based utility’s stock rose 28.8 percent, with much of the gain following the announcement of Avista’s pending purchase by Hydro One, a Canadian utility. Hydro One will pay $53 per share for Avista stock. The sale is expected to close in mid-August.

Other local stocks tracked by Hart Capital include Potlatch Corp., whose stock price grew by 19.8 percent in 2017; Itron Inc., which had an 8.5 percent increase; and Key Tronic Corp., whose stock price dropped 12.8 percent.

Clearwater Paper Corp. had the worst performance among local stocks last year, with a share price that declined 30.1 percent.

The company’s 2017 performance was hurt by major maintenance projects at its pulp and paper plants across the U.S., higher pulp prices and hurricanes in the Southeast.

Hecla Mining Co. had the second-worst performance, with a 24.2 percent drop in its share price.

“Investors weren’t gravitating to mining stocks in 2017,” Hart said.

The company’s ongoing strike at the Lucky Friday silver mine in Idaho was probably a factor, too, he said.


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