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Associated Press, Published August 14 2012

Financial company says ND has 13 of nation's safest banks

MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota has 13 of the nation's safest banks, a financial research and publishing company said.

StreetAuthority LLC, which has offices in Austin, Texas, and Gaithersburg, Maryland, said it evaluated more than 7,300 banks nationwide using a measuring tool that considers a bank's reserves against loan losses and the number of loans it has that aren't being repaid. The tool has been used to predict bank failures, the company said.

Of 359 banks that were judged as the nation's safest, 13 are in North Dakota, the company's analysis says. They are located in the rural communities of Carson, Crosby, Edgeley, Forman, Golva, Leeds, Napoleon, Powers Lake, Rugby, Strasburg, Velva, Washburn and Westhope.

"It's kind of a nice accomplishment," said Craig Johnson, president of Merchants Bank in Rugby, which is one of the banks on the list.

The Farmers State Bank of Crosby is also on the list, and its president, Paul Hanisch, said he believes North Dakota values contribute to a low rate of loan defaults.

"It's nice to have customers that are honest, and we appreciate that," Hanisch told The Minot Daily News (http://bit.ly/RKUMUB ).

Terry Zeltinger, president of United Community Bank's offices in Minot and Burlington, said North Dakota banks are usually conservatively managed.

Even though the state's economy is booming, influenced by western North Dakota's burgeoning oil industry, banks are staying cautious, he said.

"We have to look at each deal, and how would this deal be if the oil activity slowed way down?" Zeltinger said.

South Dakota had nine banks on the "safest" list. They are located in Bruce, Dakota Dunes, Emery, Menno, Oldham, Parkston, Sioux Falls and Sisseton.

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.