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Alaska's banks avoid industry woes

Most major banks and credit unions in Alaska seem to be in good health, despite the worsening news about the economy and the recent bailout of troubled national banks.

One positive sign is that many of the state's largest banks and credit unions grew in local profits, revenue, loan activity or deposits last year.

What will happen this year is a different question. Last year, many local financial institutions benefited from high oil prices and fatter-than-normal Permanent Fund dividends. This year, oil and mineral prices are down, tourism is expected to suffer and some of the state's largest employers are laying off workers.

But because most banks in Alaska avoided risky loans, and because economists aren't predicting severe job losses in Alaska this year, Anchorage financial executives don't expect the sort of meltdown and loss of shareholder confidence that has pummeled their colleagues in the Lower 48.

"There's a dislocation between what people are seeing on the national news and what's happening here," said Jason Roth, chief financial officer at First National Bank Alaska.

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