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Commerce Bancshares 1Q profit up 8.8 percent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Commerce Bancshares Inc. said on Thursday that its first-quarter net income rose 8.8 percent, beating Wall Street expectations.

The profit of $65.8 million, or 74 cents per share, for the quarter ended March 31 compared to year-ago net income of $60.5 million, or 66 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting a profit of 66 cents per share, on average.

The regional bank chain said the improvement was due to a $7.6 million decline in its provision for loan losses, along with revenue growth from its corporate card, capital markets and money management businesses.

The company also said non-interest expenses fell 2 percent.

However, low interest rates cut into the amount the bank earned from deposits and loans. Net interest income fell 1 percent to $159.7 million.

Loans grew 1 percent as it loaned out money for business, commercial real estate, and personal real estate. Average deposits grew 2 percent.

Net loan charge-offs for the quarter fell to $11.2 million, from $18.8 million a year ago. Loans that people had stopped making payments on fell by $6.3 million, to $87.5 million.

Commerce Bancshares operates in more than 360 locations in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

Shares rose $1.01, or 2.6 percent, to $40.17 in afternoon trading.