Provident Financial Services (PFS) in Iselin, N.J., reported a dip in quarterly profits because of lower fee income and higher operating costs.

The $7.5 billion-asset company's earnings fell 4% from a year earlier, to $17 million. Earnings per share of 30 cents were consistent with the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net interest income rose 2%, to $55.2 million, as the company expanded its mortgage and commercial loan portfolios. The net interest margin compressed by 5 basis points, to 3.28%.

"Although our loan pipeline remains robust, volume was constrained somewhat by our unwillingness to meet the aggressive pricing offered by certain competitors," Christopher Martin, Provident's chairman, president and chief executive, said in a Friday press release. "We will remain true to our conservative credit standards and continue to carefully manage our interest rate risk position."

Noninterest income fell 18%, to $8.1 million, as lower commercial loan prepayment fees pushed down overall fee income. Net gains on securities sales also fell.

Noninterest expenses rose 3%, to $38.2 million. Compensation and benefits costs rose, as did advertising expenses tied to Provident's recent rebranding.

The company cut its loan-loss provision by 73%, to $400,000, as credit quality improved. Net loan chargeoffs dipped 11%, to $1.6 million.

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