Bolstered by growth in commercial lending and an expansion of its net interest margin, FirstMerit Corp. of Akron, Ohio, beat Wall Street's earnings expectations and sounded a distinct note of optimism.

Despite a higher provision for loan losses, the $10.7 billion-asset company turned a third-quarter profit of $29.8 million, or 37 cents a share. That was down 1.6% from a year earlier but a penny a share better than the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

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