Second-quarter profits were up, thanks to cost cutting and some loan growth, at most of the latest Midwest regionals to report.
Firstar Corp.'s quarterly income rise 30% from the year-earlier period, to $70 million, mostly due to cost cuts.
Milwaukee-based Firstar, with $18.8 billion of assets, reduced noninterest expense by 8.6%, while boosting noninterest income by 10%, to $106 million. The company also reported growth in fee businesses, such as trust and credit cards.
Net interest income grew only slightly, however, as loan volume declined from the first-quarter level, primarily because of a drop in mortgage lending. Analysts were perplexed by the lower loan numbers.
"The question needs to be asked, 'Is the turmoil of Firstar (cost- cutting) affecting loan growth?'" said Ben Crabtree, an analyst at Dain Bosworth Inc. in Minneapolis.
The quarterly loan-loss provision at Firstar was $10.8 million, an $860,000 increase from the year-earlier quarter.
Standard Federal Bancorp., meanwhile, benefiting from a better net interest margin, reported a 19% increase in net income, to $34 million.
The $15.2 billion-asset thrift, which is based in Troy, Mich., credited its net interest margin of 2.85%, 18 basis points higher than in the 1995 quarter, for the profit growth amid strong mortgage demand. Net interest income increased 20%, to $94.2 million.
Following an industry trend, Old Kent Financial Corp., Grand Rapids, Mich., reported a higher provision for potential credit losses, which was a drag on its earnings. Net income at the $12.2 billion-asset company was $37.6 million, a 0.5% increase. Old Kent set aside $9.7 million for potential credit card and leasing losses; $6 million was set during second quarter 1995.
One of the few exceptions in the region, St. Louis-based Roosevelt Financial Group Inc., said its earnings declined 7%, to $21 million, due to higher expenses for trying to build up its consumer business.
Chad Yonker of Fox-Pitt, Kelton Inc. said the company's propensity to disappoint analysts' expectations is becoming tiresome. "I would say earnings have been disappointing the last six quarters," he said. "There have been several times where they have been under estimates."