Synovus Financial Corp. reported its third straight quarterly loss while cutting its credit costs in spite of surging defaults.

The $34.5 billion-asset Columbus, Ga., banking company lost $136.7 million in the first quarter, or 46 cents a share, compared to a $637 million loss in the fourth quarter and an $81 million gain a year earlier. On average, analysts were expecting a loss of 37 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. The fourth-quarter results included a substantial goodwill impairment charge.

The loan-loss provision fell 20.2% from the fourth quarter, though it more than tripled from a year earlier, at $290.4 million. Net chargeoffs rose 7.4% from the fourth quarter and nearly quadrupled from a year earlier, to $246.3 million. Nonperforming assets rose 49.5% from the fourth quarter and 158% from a year earlier, to $1.75 billion.

Richard Anthony, the company's chairman and chief executive, said credit quality in its residential development book continued to weaken, particularly in Atlanta.

The company recently cut its quarterly dividend to a penny to conserve capital. "We are doing everything we can to return to profitability, repay the U.S. Treasury and restore our dividend as soon as possible," he said in a press release.

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