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On May 16, 2014, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Great Southern Bancorp Inc. to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

Great Southern Bancorp has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong first-quarter 2014 results. The stock has a long-term expected earnings growth rate of 9.0%. Further, Great Southern Bancorp has delivered positive earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 27.1%.

Great Southern Bancorp reported first-quarter results on Apr 21 with earnings per share of 63 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 23.5%. Moreover, this was also up 5.0% from the year-ago earnings of 60 cents.

Results benefited mainly from 79.4% year over year decrease in provision for loan losses and almost in line non-interest expenses. Further, improved asset quality and strong capital ratios were other tailwinds.

Non-performing assets to period-end assets was 1.48%, down 33 basis points (bps). Also, allowance for loan losses was 1.76% to period-end loans, declining 39 bps. Further, Great Southern Bancorp recorded improvement in profitability ratios as well.

On the flip side, lower net interest income and a drastic decline in non-interest income dragged the results down.

During the last 30 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 increased 9.9% to $2.23 per share. For 2015, the Zacks Consensus Estimate remained stable at $2.12 per share over the same time period.

Other Stocks to Consider

Some other banking stocks worth considering include Anchor Bancorp , Capital City Bank Group Inc. and Farmers Capital Bank Corporation . All these banks sport a Zacks Rank #1.

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