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On Aug 24, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Glacier Bancorp Inc. (GBCI - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

Glacier Bancorp has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong second-quarter 2013 results and the recent acquisition of Chelan, Wash.-based North Cascades Bancshares, Inc. and its subsidiary, North Cascades National Bank. Moreover, this well-known commercial banking services provider delivered positive earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 3.6%. The long-term expected earnings growth rate for this stock is 9%.

Glacier Bancorp reported its second-quarter results on Jul 26 with earnings per share of 31 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 30 cents by 3.3% and the year-ago earnings of 26 cents by 19.2%. Robust results for the reported quarter were primarily aided by elevated non-interest income, reduced non-interest expenses and lower provisions for loan losses, partially offset by lower net interest income.

In July, Glacier Bancorp also completed the acquisition of North Cascades, which provides community banking services. As of Jun 30, 2013, NCNB had total assets of about $330 million.

During the reported quarter, Glacier Bancorp announced a 7% increase in its quarterly cash dividend. The increased dividend of 15 cents per share was paid on Jul 18, 2013 to shareholders of record on Jul 9. Notably, this latest rise in dividend is the 113th consecutive quarterly dividend increment.

Following second-quarter 2013 results, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 5.8% to $1.28 per share on the back of upward revisions in all five estimates, over the last 30 days. For 2014, the Zacks Consensus Estimate advanced 10.5% to $1.47 per share with all estimates moving north over the same time period.

Other Stocks to Consider

Besides Glacier Bancorp, other banks in the West with a Zacks Rank #1 include BofI Holding, Inc. (BOFI - Snapshot Report), Preferred Bank (PFBC - Snapshot Report) and Umpqua Holdings Corporation (UMPQ - Snapshot Report).

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