First Niagara Financial (FNFG) in Buffalo, N.Y., surpassed Wall Street's expectations for the third quarter as loan growth compensated for sliding mortgage banking fees.

The $37.3 billion-asset company's earnings rose 41% from a year earlier, to $71.6 million. The third quarter of 2012 included $29 million in costs tied to the company's purchase of more than 100 branches from HSBC. Earnings per share of 20 cents topped the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg by a penny.

Net interest income rose 3% from a year earlier, to $277.5 million, as total loans rose 10%, to $21.1 billion. The net interest margin narrowed by 14 basis points from a year earlier, to 3.40%. The loan-loss provision rose 24% from a year earlier, to $27.6 million, while net chargeoffs rose 28%, to $13 million.

Noninterest income fell 11% from the third quarter of 2012, as mortgage banking revenue declined by 79%, to $2.3 million. First Niagara reported an increase in fees tied to merchant and card fees and deposit service charges. Income from wealth management services increased by 37% from a year earlier, to $15.2 million.

Excluding the costs tied to last year’s HSBC deal, noninterest expenses fell 2% from a year earlier, to $231.2 million, mainly because of lower amortization costs. Compensation costs were flat, at $115 million, and occupancy costs rose slightly.

First Niagara has not named a permanent chief executive after dismissing John Koelmel in March. Gary Crosby is interim CEO.

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