Strong revenue and lower credit costs boosted first-quarter earnings at SunTrust Banks (STI), the Atlanta company said Monday.

The $178.2 billion-asset company's net income more than tripled from the fourth quarter and rose 39% from a year earlier, to $245 million. Revenue rose 8% from the fourth quarter and 3% from a year earlier, to $2.2 billion.

"Our core performance this quarter … marked a continuation of the improved momentum we built during 2011," William Rogers Jr., SunTrust's chairman and chief executive, said in a press release. "Improved revenue, as well as continued favorable trends in loans, deposits, and credit metrics were hallmarks for the quarter."

Total loans rose slightly from the fourth quarter and 7% from a year earlier, to $122.7 billion. Growth in commercial lending as well as guaranteed student loans and guaranteed mortgage loans contributed to the improvement. The net interest margin expanded 3 basis points from the fourth quarter but shrank 4 basis points from a year earlier, to 3.49%.

Overall, net interest income rose 1% from the fourth quarter and 5% from a year earlier, to $1.3 billion.

The provision for loan losses fell 3% from the fourth quarter and 29% from a year earlier, to $317 million. Net chargeoffs declined 11% from the fourth quarter and 26% from a year earlier, to $422 million. Nonperforming loans totaled $2.6 billion at March 31, compared with $3.9 billion a year earlier.

Noninterest income rose 21% from the fourth quarter and remained relatively flat from a year earlier, at $876 million. The company attributed the improvement to strong mortgage refinancing activity.

Noninterest expenses fell 8% from the fourth quarter and rose 5% from a year earlier, to $1.5 billion.

SunTrust disclosed that it had cut 567 positions during the fourth quarter.

 

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