Profit declined at Fulton Financial in Lancaster, Pa., in the first quarter, as broad-based loan growth was offset by a drop in noninterest income.

The $18.1 billion-asset company's net income fell 4.4% to $38.3 million, compared to a year ago. Earnings per share were unchanged at 22 cents, a penny better than the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net interest income after the provision for credit losses was little changed at $127.5 million. The net interest margin compressed to 3.23% from 3.27%.

Total loans increased 5.8% to $13.9 billion. Fulton originated more loans in its two largest categories, commercial real estate and business loans, including agricultural lending.

Noninterest income fell 3.6% to $43.1 million. The decrease was partly due to an unfavorable yearly comparison for investment securities gains. Those gains fell $3.2 million from last year's quarter, in which Fulton recorded gains from the sale of two pooled trust-preferred debt securities.

Noninterest expense rose 1.6% to $120.4 million, mainly on higher costs related to salaries and employee benefits, data processing and software. The efficiency ratio improved 183 basis points to 68.33%.

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