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FARMERS NATIONAL Bank ranks high in safety



Published: Thu, August 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bank president said he's not endorsing the book, but he welcomes the good publicity.

THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

CANFIELD -- Farmers National Bank has been named one of the two safest banks in Ohio by a well-known national rating agency, and a newly released financial advice book is getting the word out fast.

Weiss Ratings Inc., a Florida-based rating group that evaluates the financial strength of more than 15,000 banks, insurance companies, savings and loans and brokerage firms, gave Farmers an A- rating in its annual evaluation.

Weiss markets its financial rankings in books and lists available on its Web site. Only its top 10 and bottom 10 choices are available free on the site, however, so other ratings are not generally well known except among those who subscribe to the Weiss publications.

But Farmers' high Weiss ranking gained national attention with the release of "Conquer the Crash," a financial advice book by Robert R. Prechter Jr., and published by John Wiley & amp; Sons. The book lists the top two safest banks in each state, based on Weiss Ratings, and lists Farmers Bank and People's Bank in Marietta as Ohio's safest.

Bank officials were aware of the Weiss evaluations but didn't know how well the Canfield-based bank had fared until customers, shareholders and prospective shareholders read the book and started calling.

Reaction

"We do not necessarily share the views of the nation's economic climate as expressed in the book that has brought attention to the ratings," said Frank L. Paden, president and chief executive of Farmers. "But we appreciate being recognized for our strong capital position, our asset quality, liquidity and other factors."

The author of "Conquer the Crash" predicts a continued economic decline and advises readers to protect their wealth by moving their money to safer investments and to what he calls "safe banks" capable of weathering future financial storms.

Weiss explains on its Web site that an A rating indicates a bank has "maintained a conservative stance in its business operations and underwriting practices, evidenced by a strong equity base, top-notch asset quality, steady earnings and high liquidity."

"While the financial position of any company is subject to change, we believe that this institution has the resources necessary to deal with severe economic conditions," the agency states in a general explanation of its rating system.

Farmers, a subsidiary of Farmers National Bank Corp., has 16 offices in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. The corporation reported earnings of $3.4 million or 28 cents per share in the first six months of 2002. It reported assets of $698.2 million, up 10.7 percent from a year ago.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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