FirstMerit in Akron, Ohio, reported higher quarterly earnings as cost controls compensated for a decline in interest income.

The $24.9 billion-asset company earned $61.1 million in the fourth quarter, up 7% from a year earlier.

Lower salary and professional services costs drove the results, as the company cut noninterest expenses 8%, to $165 million.

Tighter margins weighed down returns from the company’s loan book. Net interest income fell 3%, to $196.5 million. Total loans increased 7%, to $15.3 billion, mostly from a sharp uptick in commercial lending. The net interest margin narrowed by 33 basis points, to 3.56%.

Fee-based income held relatively steady at $72 million.

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