Fueled by balance sheet growth, Signature Bank's fourth-quarter profits rose 32% from a year earlier, to $40 million.

The New York company also reported Tuesday that its 2011 profit climbed 46.5% compared to 2010, to $149.5 million. At 85 cents a share, the fourth-quarter earnings beating average analysts' estimates by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters.

The $14.7 billion-asset company said that deposits in the fourth quarter rose 5% from a year earlier, to $11.8 billion, and that loans increased more than 6%, to $6.9 billion. Loan growth was mostly due to commercial real estate and multifamily loans.

The company's fourth-quarter net interest income surged 31% from a year earlier, to $125.3 million, driven by growth in average interest earning assets. Noninterest income fell 21% from a year earlier, to $7.9 million, due largely to lower securities gains.

Signature said it hired seven banking teams last year, including one private client banking team during the fourth quarter.

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