Money Store Inc. on Wednesday reported higher-than-expected delinquency rates for the first quarter, sparking an early-morning flurry of trading and a nosedive in the company's stock price.

The bad news on delinquencies overshadowed an 88% increase from a year earlier in net income, to $26.7 million.

Earnings per share for the first quarter were 41 cents, 5 cents above analysts' estimates and 52% above the year-earlier figure. But loans delinquent by 30 days or more rose by almost 10%.

By mid-morning, stock of the Sacramento, Calif.-based subprime lender had fallen $4.375 from Tuesday's close, to $16.375. Shares wound up the day at $18.875, off $1.75.

The company reported $1.6 billion of loan originations, a 40% increase. The fledgling auto finance division saw the fastest acceleration, with volume jumping 137% to $176 million.

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