Associated Banc-Corp of Green Bay, Wis., announced a double-digit increase in fourth-quarter profit that was spurred by increased lending.

The $24 billion-asset company reported net income of $45 million, up 12.5% from a year earlier. Per-share earnings of 26 cents were in line with the average forecast of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Associated's loan portfolio grew by 3%, or $445 million, pushing net interest income up 6.3, to $161 million. The net interest margin climbed six basis points from the third quarter, to 3.32%. The provision for loan losses tripled from a year earlier, to $3 million. Chargeoffs totaled $21 million, down $2 million.

Noninterest income rose 8.9%, to $77.9 million, on higher fee income from cards, capital markets and mortgage banking.

For the full year, the company's loan portfolio expanded by 10%, to $15.4 billion. During the quarter, commercial loans increased by $262 million from a year earlier, commercial real estate by $164 million, and residential mortgage loans by $172 million. The bank's retail portfolio, made up of home equity and installment loans, contracted by $153 million.

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