Shares of CCB Financial Corp. gained Tuesday after Interstate/Johnson Lane put the Durham, N.C.-based company on its "buy" list.

The Atlanta firm said it had upgraded the CCB's shares from a "neutral" rating because it expects the bank will benefit from the growing North Carolina economy. It put a 12-month price target of $60 on the stock.

"I would say it will attain $60 a share in the next 12 months if we have a continuation of the present market," said analyst John Mason. "In the right circumstances, it could be a $70 stock."

The stock, which closed below $50 Monday for the first time in two months, gained $1.25 to $50.50.

The author of Interstate/Johnson Lane's rating report, research analyst Chris Marinac, said economic conditions in the Southeast have made the region a "very attractive bank market." This should help all banks in the region, he said, but CCB would likely benefit more because of strategic acquisitions.

The bank ranks second only to Wachovia Corp. in the northern North Carolina city of Durham, and is building its branch system in key urban markets along the Interstate 85 corridor all the way to Charlotte in the south. Its acquisition of Salisbury, N.C.-based Security Capital Bancorp last year was a key in achieving this growth.

"We like it that CCB is primarily in growth areas along the Interstate 85 corridor," Mr. Marinac said. "Because of that we think it deserves a higher valuation."

Based upon Monday's closing price of $49.25, the $5.1 billion-asset company's shares were selling at nearly 10.5 times 1996 earnings of $4.68 a share forecast by Interstate Johnson and just over 10 times its 1997 forecast of $4.90 a share.

Jim Schutz, a Chicago Corp. analyst who follows CCB and some of its competitors in North Carolina, said the bank's "compact and attractive branch distribution" system also makes it an attractive target for a bank wishing to enter this market. Though most big banks would likely want a larger entry point, he predicted that CCB would become increasingly attractive in coming years as it grows.

Others are less optimistic about the potential for CCB's stock in the near term. R. Harold Schroeder, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York, said the bank's secondary position in North Carolina was likely to prevent its price from rising much.

"I think anywhere from $51 a share to $52 a share is fairly priced," he said. "They're just not a dominant player in that market, but they do have a nice franchise."

That franchise of both consumer and a commercial elements is a key selling point, however, according to Mr. Schutz. He particularly likes the bank's lending niche in real estate construction, which has allowed it to take advantage of population growth in North Carolina.

And while CCB and others do not own a large piece of this market, Mr. Schutz said, these banks are not at a loss. "All these banks make money," he said. "It's not like they can't compete."

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