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Washington Federal said Tuesday that its first-quarter earnings rose 5.6 percent to $36.0 million or 34 cents per share.

Chairman Roy Whitehead said loan quality has improved thanks to stronger housing and economic conditions, but “consumers and businesses remain cautious.”

The Seattle-based banking company, which operates in eight Western states, expects earnings will be “under pressure until loan demand improves or higher interest rates enable us to be more competitive with government mortgage sources,” Whitehead said in a statement.