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On Nov 6, Zacks Investment Research upgraded American River Bankshares (AMRB - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

American River Bankshares has been witnessing rising earnings estimates following the announcement of robust third-quarter 2013 results. Moreover, this Pacific-based regional bank has a healthy year to date return of 28.5%.

American River Bankshares reported third-quarter 2013 results on Oct 17. Earnings per share of 10 cents surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2 cents. Results benefited from decline in expenses and lower provision for credit losses, partially offset by a drop in net interest and non-interest income.

Non-interest expense declined 16.2% from the prior-year quarter to $3.5 million. Asset quality considerably improved. In the said quarter, the company’s provision for loan losses was nil against $0.4 million reported in the comparable period last year. Net charge-offs were $0.1 million, down substantially by 85.7% from $1.0 million in the year-earlier quarter.

On the flip side, non-interest income fell 31.5% to $0.5 million and net interest income decreased 9.6% to $4.4 million on a year-over-year basis.

Additionally, following the earnings release, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 rose 10.0% to 33 cents per share over the last 30 days. For 2014, over the same time period, the Zacks Consensus Estimate moved north by 9.1% to 36 cents. Positive earnings surprise and favorable estimate revisions stimulated the rank upgrade.

Other Stocks to Consider

While we prefer American River Bankshares, other stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 include Preferred Bank (PFBC - Snapshot Report), Sierra Bancorp (BSRR - Snapshot Report) and SVB Financial Group (SIVB - Analyst Report).

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