Fueled by commercial real estate loan growth and stronger credit quality, Webster Financial (WBS) of Waterbury, Conn., reported first-quarter earnings of $38.3 million, up more than 13% from a year earlier.

The $19.1 billion-asset company said Tuesday that total loans rose almost 3%, to $11.3 billion, year over year. Commercial loans rose roughly 2%, to $2.9 billion and commercial real estate loans climbed about 9%, to $2.4 billion. Residential mortgage loans totaled $3.3 billion, up almost 4% year over year.

Fee income rose slightly as an 8% drop in deposit fees, to $23.4 million, was offset by a 7% gain in fees from wealth and investment services and a 250% jump in mortgage-banking income, to $4.4 million.

Webster reported continued improvement in its asset quality as nonperforming assets fell more than 36% to $184.2 million and commercial classified loans dropped about 35%. The company's provision for loan losses totaled $4 million, down 60% from a year ago, and net chargeoffs fell roughly 19% to $27.2 million.

Webster reported earnings per share of 42 cents, beating estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters by two cents. Webster's shares were trading at $21.60 Tuesday morning, up about 1% from Monday's close.

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