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FirstMerit 4th-quarter net income rises 25 percent

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- FirstMerit Corp. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter net income rose 25 percent, as the amount and quality of its loans both increased and costs fell.

The Akron, Ohio-based community bank operator earned $38.2 million, or 35 cents per share, for the October-to-December period. That was up from $30.5 million, or 28 cents per share, in the 2011 quarter.

Analysts, on average, expected a profit of 32 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Net interest income, or earnings from deposits and loans, fell 4 percent to $116.2 million.

Noninterest income, excluding securities transactions, rose 10 percent to $59.2 million from a year earlier, helped by a $5 million gain on covered loans paid in full.

Average loans, not including covered loans, rose 10 percent to $8.44 billion, as average commercial loans increased 11 percent to $5.6 billion.

The company's provision for loan losses, or the amount of money set aside to cover soured loans, dropped 42 percent to $7.1 million.

For the full year 2012, FirstMerit earned $134.1 million, or $1.22 per share, up from $119.6 million, or $1.10 per share, in 2011.

FirstMerit shares rose 21 cents to $15.37 in afternoon trading.