Meridian Bancorp reported third-quarter net income Wednesday of $36.6 million, a 6% increase over the $34.6 million it earned in the same period last year.

The Reading, Pa.-based bank earned 62 cents per share, compared with 60 cents per share at Sept. 30, 1993.

Meridian's chairman and chief executive officer, Samuel McCullough, said the bank's number of nonperforming loans declined for the 11th straight quarter. Meridian's loan-loss provision dropped 7%.

But Merrill Ross of Wheat First, Butcher & Singer said that core banking operations were hurt by rising interest rates. The bank reported a 4.65% net interest margin this quarter, down from 4.97% in 1993's third quarter. "It's ugly," Ms. Ross said.

Meridian's earnings were 21% below the consensus estimate of 80 cents per share made by Wall Street analysts. The bank warned last week that it would earn between 62 cents and 67 cents per share.

The $15 billion-asset bank said the falloff was due to poor performance at its securities unit. A top securities trader, now suspended, had not liquidated positions quickly enough when the market declined, the bank said.

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