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Topic: Growth Stocks

Washington Federal, Inc. $24 – Nasdaq symbol WFSL

WASHINGTON FEDERAL, INC. $24 (Nasdaq symbol WFSL; WSSF Rating: Average) operates 122 savings and loans branches in seven western states. Single-family residential mortgages account for 70% of its loan portfolio.

The company is doing a good job managing its loan portfolio. When interest rates were low, it decided to hold most of its assets in cash instead of chasing less profitable business. However, as interest rates moved up, it expanded its lending activities.

Thanks to this conservative approach, Washington Federal earned $0.39 a share (total $34.4 million) in its fourth fiscal quarter ended September 30, 2005, up 8.3% from $0.36 a share ($31.5 million) a year earlier. The most recent quarterly earnings figure included $1.2 million in net non-recurring items.

Despite strong loan growth, Washington Federal still has some of the industry’s lowest default rates. Non-performing loans fell to 0.09% of total assets at September 30, 2005 from 0.21% a year earlier.

In fiscal 2005, its efficiency ratio (non-interest expenses as a percentage of net revenue — the lower, the better) rose to 19.6% from 18.9% a year earlier. However, Washington Federal is still one of the most efficient thrifts in the United States.

The stock trades at 15.0 times its likely fiscal 2006 profit of $1.60 a share. The $0.80 dividend yields 3.3%.

Washington Federal is a buy.

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