Simmons First National Corp. in Pine Bluff, Ark., said Thursday that its fourth-quarter earnings fell 9% from a year earlier, to $5.6 million.

Its earnings per share fell 11%, to 40 cents.

The $2.9 billion-asset company said its net interest income rose 1.1% from a year earlier, to $23.8 million, even though its net interest margin fell 30 basis points, to 3.70%. It fattened its loan portfolio by 4.5%, to $1.93 billion, primarily by adding more student loans and real estate loans.

The ratio of nonperforming assets rose 13 basis points from a year earlier, to 0.64%. Its annualized net credit card chargeoffs were 2.02%, up 22 basis points from the third quarter but still more than 400 basis points below the industry average.

"While the national economy continues to be under considerable stress, the Arkansas economy has fared much better, to date, due to the fact that we simply do not have the same highs and lows as seen in many other regions throughout our country," J. Thomas May, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release.

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