Fees from residential refinancings propelled Sandy Spring Bancorp (SASR) in Olney, Md., in the first quarter.

Earnings at the $3.9 billion-asset company rose 24.7% from a year earlier, to $10.6 million.

Net interest income rose 9% year over year, to $31.3 million. Net interest margin rose three-tenths of a basis point from a year earlier, to 3.59%.

Noninterest income grew 12.7% year over year, to $12.4 million, primarily because of income from mortgage-banking, miscellaneous loan sales and a one-time legal settlement. Noninterest expense increased 4.1% from a year earlier, to $27.8 million. The company's efficiency ratio improved by 317 basis points year over year, to 60.8%.

Sandy Spring's loan book grew 13% year over year, to $2.6 billion, because of increases in loans to homeowners and businesses.

"We are off to a strong start for 2013 as the combination of organic loan and deposit growth together with disciplined management of funding costs has offset declining earning asset yields in this low interest rate environment," Daniel Schrider, Sandy Spring's chief executive, said in a press release.

"Maintaining our net interest margin in the face of such a challenging economic environment has been one of our primary goals," Schrider added.

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