Centura Banks Inc. netted $13.4 million in the third quarter, up 16% from the year-ago period, the bank said Thursday.

Centura, which is based in Rocky Mount. N.C., said increased loan volume and a wider net interest margin contributed to its improved performance.

Centura's earnings per share of 63 cents came in one cent above consensus estimates as compiled by First Call. Centura's stock was unchanged at $22.875 on the news Thursday.

By announcing its results on Thursday, Centura became the first major southeastern bank to report third-quarter earnings.

"I hope it sets a precedent for the quarter," said Merrill Ross, an analyst with Wheat First Securities Inc.

Ms. Ross, who is based in Richmond, applauded Centura for "a very good quarich' but added that Centura's loan growth "probably won't be universal for the region."

Loans at Centura, which has $4.2 billion of assets, surged nearly 15% to $2.8 billion from the year-ago quarter. Chief financial officer Frank Patillo said loan growth had been running in the 14%-to-15% range all year. "Business is good in North Carolina;' he said.

An environment of rising interest rates has also been beneficial to Centura's balance sheet, which is asset sensitive.

The net interest margin reached 5.02%, up 11 basis points from the second quarter and 23 basis points from the year-ago period.

Mr. Patillo said yields on Centura's prime-based loans had risen faster than its cost of funds.

"Whenever short-term rates go up, our net interest margin will increase during that quarter," he said.

"We continue to expect that deposit-rate creep will cut into margins. but it continues to not happen." said Ms. Ross, the analyst.

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