Top thrifts take the long view

Article Excerpt

In analyzing thrift companies, investors often focus on the latest predictions on interest-rate trends and the health of the housing boom. In contrast, the top thrifts look to maintain and expand their businesses by expanding and refining the products and services they offer, and by using carefully chosen acquisitions to expand or enhance their profits. Here are three top thrift companies that are doing a good job of coping with higher rates and building a long-term relationship with a growing clientele. We see all three as buys. WASHINGTON MUTUAL INC. $44 (New York symbol WM; WSSF Rating: Average) is the nation’s largest thrift company, with over 2,500 branches and offices. Residential mortgages account for over 60% of its total loan portfolio. Other operations include corporate lending and insurance. Rising interest rates has slowed demand for new mortgages, and refinancing of existing ones. That forced Washington Mutual to cut costs, and reduce its exposure to the mortgage industry. Consequently, the company acquired credit card…

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