Wintrust Financial in Rosemont, Ill., reported first-quarter earnings of $39.1 million, up 13% from a year earlier, as loans increased and mortgage revenue rose.

The $20.4 billion-asset company's earnings of 76 cents per share beat the analysts' consensus for the quarter by two pennies. The results were announced late Wednesday, and the company's shares had risen more than 2% at midday Thursday, to $49.83, near their 52-week high of $49.97.

The company reported net interest income of nearly $152 million, up 5.47% from a year earlier. Total loans increased almost 13%, to $15.2 billion. Loans were also up 3.6%, or $544 million, from the fourth quarter, with $128 million of that growth coming from the company's acquisition of Delavan Bancshares. Wintrust's net interest margin was 3.42%, down 4 basis points from the prior quarter and down 19 from a year earlier.

The provision for loan losses was $6.2 million, compared with $3.3 million a year earlier, but the company noted that the first-quarter-2014 figure was unusually low because reserves had been well stocked in the postcrisis period.

Fee income was $64.5 million, up 42% from a year earlier. The driver was mortgage banking, where revenues totaled $27.8 million, up 70% from a year earlier. Ed Wehmer, chief executive of Wintrust, said in a press release that he is expecting mortgages to stay strong in subsequent quarters because of anticipated organic growth and acquisitions of mortgage companies.

"The increase in mortgage banking revenue was primarily a result of higher origination volumes in the current quarter as purchase originations were supplemented by increased refinancing activity amidst the low interest rate environment," Wehmer said. "Our mortgage pipeline remains strong, and we expect to continue to pick up refinance business as well as financing home purchases as we enter into the traditional spring purchase market."

Expenses were $39 million in the quarter, up 13% from a year earlier, largely driven by a 14% increase in salaries and benefits.

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