Wintrust Financial (WTFC) in Rosemont, Ill., recorded higher fourth-quarter earnings because of an increase in net interest income and a lower loan-loss provision.

The $18 billion company's earnings rose 17% from a year earlier, to $35.3 million. Earnings per share of 70 cents were in line with the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net interest income rose 7% from a year earlier, to $142.3 million. Average loans, excluding covered loans, grew by $1 billion from the end of 2012. The company's earnings reflect its acquisitions of Diamond Bancorp and certain assets and liabilities of Surety Financial Services.

Wintrust's net interest margin expanded by 13 basis points from a year earlier, to 3.53%.

Noninterest income fell 29% from a year earlier, to $46.4 million, because of lower mortgage banking revenue and fewer securities gains. Higher income from the company's wealth management business partially offset the decline.

Noninterest expenses dipped 2% from a year earlier, to $127 million, because of lower costs from foreclosures and reduced employee salaries and benefits.

Wintrust chopped its loan-loss provision by 81% from a year earlier, to $3.9 million.

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