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Comerica 1st-quarter net income rises

DALLAS (AP) -- Regional bank Comerica said Tuesday that its net income rose 3 percent in the first quarter, helped by expense-control efforts and loan growth.

For the period ended March 31, earnings were $134 million, or 70 cents per share. That compares with $130 million, or 66 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected 68 cents per share.

"Broad-based average loan growth in each of our primary geographic markets, together with tight expense controls, contributed to our increased net income in the first quarter," Chairman and CEO Ralph W. Babb Jr. said in a statement.

Noninterest expense fell to $416 million from $448 million a year earlier.

Part of the reason Comerica's expenses dropped was that its full-time employee headcount declined to 8,932 from 9,195 a year earlier.

Net interest income fell to $416 million from $442 million. Net interest income combines interest on loans that the bank collects and interest on deposits and debt that the bank pays out. It is a measure of the bank's ability to profit from its lending.

Banks are seeing interest income squeezed by ultra-low interest rates and competition for depositors. They rely increasingly on fees for services like money management and basic retail banking.

Non-interest income, which includes fees, insurance and gains on securities, slipped to $200 million from $206 million.

Provision for credit losses, or the amount of money it set aside to cover soured loans, declined to $16 million from $22 million.

Net charge-offs, or loans the company doesn't expect to collect on, dropped to $24 million from $45 million.

Comerica Inc. does not report total revenue.

For the full year, the company anticipates lower net interest income in part because of continued low rates. It expects provision for bad loans to be stable, with loan growth offset by a drop in nonperforming loans and net charge-offs.

Average loans are expected to continue to grow but at a slower pace partly because of economic uncertainty.

Shares of Comerica gained 15 cents to $34.28 in midday trading.