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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hecla leads local stocks with strong price gain in 2016

Hecla Mining Co. was the top performing local stock in 2016, with share prices that nearly quadrupled as global economic uncertainty increased investor’s demand for gold and silver.

The Coeur d’Alene-based company’s strong stock performance also reflected record output from the company’s gold and silver mines in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, reported a 50 percent increase in silver production last quarter.

“Gold miners as a whole have done well, and even within this specific group, Hecla has really grown its production,” said Jim Czirr, equity analyst at Hart Capital Management in Spokane.

Hart Financial tracks the performance of 10 local, publicly traded companies in a quarterly index. For most of the businesses, 2016 is ending on a strong note.

“It’s been a great year for local companies. On average, they’re up about 46 percent,” said Craig Hart, Hart Capital’s president and chief investment officer.

For comparison, the Russell 2000 Index, which tracks small cap companies, is up about 22 percent for the year, he said.

Liberty Lake-based Itron’s stock was the second best performer this year, with an 82 percent increase in share value. The company develops and sells products and services for water and energy utilities worldwide.

Itron’s backlog of orders gave a boost to the company’s share prices this year, Hart said. “It’s an indicator of earnings, of future sales for their products,” he said.

Higher commodity prices, meanwhile, have benefited both Clearwater Paper Corp. and Potlatch Corp., he said. Clearwater Paper, which manufactures bathroom tissue, pulp and paperboard, saw gains in the 43 percent range, and Potlatch, with extensive timberland holdings, saw gains of 35 percent amid a strengthening housing market.

Avista Corp.’s stock price increased 19 percent.

Nationally, the finance sector had a very strong year, but those gains didn’t trickle down to local banks, whose stocks had more modest gains in the 8 to 16 percent range.

“These are smaller, non-liquid companies that aren’t trading quite as well as their larger brethren,” Hart said.

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