Double-digit loan growth propelled Synchrony Financial to higher earnings during the fourth quarter.

The Stamford, Conn., credit card issuer reported net income of $576 million, up 5.3% from the same period a year earlier. Earnings per share were 70 cents, which beat the consensus estimate of analysts by 3 cents.

Synchrony, which was spun off from General Electric in 2014, said that its average loan receivables grew by 12% to $73 billion.

The entire U.S. credit card industry enjoyed a boost in loan demand in 2016, but balance growth has been particularly strong at Synchrony, which specializes in store-branded cards for retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.

For all of last year, Synchrony reported loan receivables growth of 12%, which easily outpaced the company's January 2016 forecast of 7%-9% growth.

Synchrony's loan growth has come at the cost of some weakening in its credit quality. The $87 billion-asset firm reported Friday that 4.32% of its total period-end loan receivables were at least 30 days past due, up from 4.06% in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The company set aside a $1.07 billion provision for loan losses during the fourth quarter, up 30.7% from the same period a year earlier.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2017, Synchrony again projected loan receivables growth of 7%-9%.

The company also projected a net chargeoff rate of 4.75%-5% in 2017, up from 4.62% during the fourth quarter of last year.

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