U.S. Bancorp reported a steady quarterly profit that matched analysts' estimates as the company made more loans to businesses.

Net income was $1.47 billion in the third quarter, or 78 cents a share, the Minneapolis bank said Wednesday. The average estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 78 cents. The company made $1.47 billion, or 76 cents per share, a year earlier.

U.S. Bancorp, led by Chief Executive Officer Richard Davis, 56, is benefiting from improved commercial lending as the U.S. economy strengthens. The bank has countered an industrywide slowdown in mortgages by relying on fees from businesses including credit cards and auto financing.

"Our disciplined approach returned positive operating leverage and the diversification of our business profile allowed us to maintain our momentum as the economy slowly rebounds," Davis said in a news release.

U.S. Bancorp shares gained 0.6% to $40.50 at 8:07 a.m. in early Wednesday trading in New York. The shares fell 0.3% this year through Tuesday, compared with the 0.9% decline of the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

Total loans increased 6.3%, to $243 billion, as commercial lending climbed 13.6%. Net revenue rose 2%, to $4.99 billion, trailing analysts' estimates of $5.01 billion. Mortgage banking revenue fell 21% from a year earlier, U.S. Bancorp said.

Noninterest expense rose 1.9%, to $2.6 billion, from a year earlier as the bank spent more on professional services and technology, while provision for credit losses increased 4.4 percent, to $311 million. Net interest margin, a measure of profitability, fell to 3.16% from 3.27 in the previous three-month period.

U.S. Bancorp "needed some economic momentum to begin to create some incremental business," Marty Mosby, an analyst at Vining Sparks in Memphis, Tennessee, said in a note before results were released. "While the U.S. economy is far from a boom, the underlying growth metrics are at least pushing through."

Return on equity, a measure of how well a company reinvested profit to generate additional earnings, fell to 14.5% from 15.8% a year earlier, the bank said. That's the lowest since the second quarter of 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Commercial loans at the largest U.S. banks rose 2.8% in the three months ended Sept. 30, according to Federal Reserve data. The U.S. economy expanded at a 4.6% annual rate from April through June, while the employment rate declined to 5.9% in September, the lowest since 2008.

Wells Fargo, the biggest U.S. home lender, said last week that third-quarter profit rose 2.7% to $5.73 billion, matching analysts' estimates. PNC Financial Services Group reported net income climbed 1%, to $1.04 billion, as fees from businesses including asset management increased.

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