Commerce Bancshares Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., reported a 37% increase in first-quarter earnings from a year earlier, to $60.5 million, because of a dramatic drop in credit costs.

The $19 billion-asset company's loan-loss provision fell 54% from year earlier, to $15.7 million. At March 31, nonperforming assets were down 6%, to $102.9 million.

The improved results included $1.3 million in net securities gains, compared with a loss of $3.7 million a year earlier.

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