Provident Financial Services Inc. reported that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 23% from a year earlier, to $14.9 million, because of an increase in net loans.

The $7.1 billion-asset company also reported Friday that its 2011 profit climbed 15% fro 2010, to $57.3 million. Christopher Martin, Provident's chairman, president and chief executive, said in a press release that improved revenues resulted from loan growth and continued expansion of core deposits.

Net loans rose 5.5% from a year earlier, to $4.6 billion; multifamily mortgage loans jumped 46% over the year, to $564.1 million. Core deposits increased 12% from a year earlier, to $4 billion.

The Jersey City, N.J., company said that fourth-quarter net interest income rose almost 2% from a year earlier, to $53.9 million. This was helped by increases in average loans outstanding and reductions in funding costs. The bank's fourth-quarter loan-loss provision fell more than 32% from a year earlier, to $6 million.

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