Astoria Financial in Lake Success, N.Y., reported higher quarterly profit that benefitted from a sizable reserve release.

The $15.6 billion-asset company's fourth-quarter profit rose 17% from a year earlier, to $21.1 million. Earnings of 21 cents a share topped the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg by 5 cents.

A reversal of prior loan-loss provisions aided the results. Astoria released $2.3 million from its loan-loss allowance, compared to a $3.4 million provision a year earlier. The company also benefitted from a 45% decrease in income tax expense.

Those developments offset decreased revenue and higher operating expenses.

Net interest income fell 3.3%, to $83.9 million. Total loans, including loans held for sale, fell 2%, to $12 billion, and the net interest margin narrowed by 1 basis point, to 2.30%.

Noninterest income fell 22%, to $13.6 million. Noninterest expenses rose 17%, to $70.2 million.

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