Fifth Third Bancorp's quarterly results are hard to get a bead on these days as it juggles long-term and short-term priorities.

Commercial construction lending rose 17% year over year, but total loans were flat at $92.9 billion as the Cincinnati company continues to shrink the size of its home equity and auto portfolios to lower credit risk.

Nevertheless, its bottom line was strong thanks to some special gains and rising interest rates. Its earnings more than doubled to $689 million in the first quarter.

Earnings per share were 97 cents, including a 40-cent boost from several one-time items, including the rising value of the company’s equity investment in the payment processor formerly called Vantiv.

Analysts polled by FactSet Research Systems expected the company to earn 48 cents per share.

Profits at Fifth Third were bolstered, in part, by a one-time gain tied to the company's investment in Vantiv.

The net interest margin rose 16 basis points to 3.18% as net interest income increased 6% to $999 million.

Fee-based revenue increased 74% to $909 million, largely from a $414 million gain tied to Vantiv’s recent acquisition of Worldpay; the combined company kept the name Worldpay. Excluding the gain, as well as a host of other smaller, noncore items, noninterest income would have climbed 3% to $553 million.

As of March 31, Fifth Third had a 4.9% stake in Worldpay.

Still, there are looming questions about spending.

Expenses rose 6% to just over $1 billion. Higher salaries and compensation drove the increase, as did a 17% jump in technology and communications costs.

In a press release announcing the results, Chairman and CEO Greg Carmichael said that “expenses were well managed” even as the $142 billion-asset company made long-term investments.

Carmichael added that the ongoing “repositioning” of its loan book — including the pullback in auto and elsewhere — will “improve the resiliency” of the company's quarterly results.

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