Results varied for the latest group of Midwestern banks reporting first-quarter performance.
Some benefited from strong fee income and loan demand. Others were hurt by one-time charges associated with mergers and restructuring.
Analysts noted good credit quality, however, despite predictions that large loan writeoffs were going to materialize in the quarter.
"Asset quality has not become an issue," said analyst Michael Moran of Roney & Co. in Detroit.
Mercantile Bancorp., an $18 billion-asset bank based in St. Louis, was hurt by charges related to an acquisition, a loan to one retailer, and dismal results in its credit card business. Mercantile was the only company to show a significant plunge in earnings, reporting a 92% decline to $4.6 million.
Wisconsin's two largest banks, Firstar Corp. and Marshall & Ilsley Corp., had flat earnings. The $19 billion-asset Firstar's earnings were largely affected by a $50 million charge associated with a cost-cutting program, including the reduction of 1,400 jobs.
Firstar's earnings rose less than 2% to $37 million after $50 million in charges for severance packages, and writedowns of assets and other costs. Excluding those charges, Firstar would have had a 20% increase in net income to $67.4 million.
The $13.4 billion-asset Marshall & Ilsley Corp., once considered one of the best performing regional banks, reported $46 million in earnings, the same as a year ago. Noninterest revenues rose 15% to $113 million, but expenses increased 11% to $270 million.
"They have trouble controlling costs, and revenues were softer than expected," said Michael Durante, an analyst with McDonald & Co. Securities, Cleveland.
First of America Corp., a $23 billion-asset bank based in Kalamazoo, Mich., came in slightly below analysts expectations, but still posted a 26% increase in earnings over last year's first quarter to $60 million. The company benefited from $4.4 million in gains from branch sales. Taking that into account as well as $6 million in severance charges made during the same quarter last year, the company said it would have improved earnings 10% from a year ago.
"Expense cuts are not materializing as quickly as I'd like to see," Mr. Moran said. "They're making strides, but they still have a lot of work to be done. I think they're on the right track."
In Chicago, $21 billion-asset Northern Trust Corp. reported income of $62 million, a 25% increase from a year ago. Trust fees, Northern's largest, single revenue source, grew 19% to $144 million. Other fee income had a modest gain of 7%, totaling $44 million. The company reported total trust assets of $649 billion.
Earnings at Huntington Bancshares, a $20 billion-asset bank in Columbus, Ohio, rose 14% to $63 million. Huntington benefited from the sale of $7 million in securities, a 5% increase in net interest income to $185 million, and an 18% increase in noninterest income to $68 million.
At Fifth Third Bancorp, a $19 billion-asset banking company based in Cincinnati, earnings rose nearly 20% to $79 million. Earnings were spurred by good commercial loan growth, a 25% increase in service charges on deposits to $19 million, a 23% increase in trust income to $18 million, a 14% increase in data processing fees to $19 million, and a 15% increase in other service charges and fees to $27 million.