Regional bank Fifth Third has strong quarter

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Regional banker Fifth Third Bancorp says its fourth-quarter net income rose 28 percent, helped by improving credit conditions.

The Cincinnati company earned $390 million, or 43 cents per share, for the period ended Dec. 31. That compares with $305 million, or 33 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts expected earnings of 41 cents per share.

Net charge-offs dropped to $147 million from $239 million, which Fifth Third said today was the lowest level since 2007's third quarter.

Total delinquencies fell 4 percent from the third quarter, the lowest since 2004's second quarter.

Non-interest income, which includes revenue from fees and other sources, surged 60 percent to $880 million. This included a $157 million gain on the sale of shares of payment processor Vantiv Inc.

Net interest income declined 2 percent to $903 million from $920 million.

Net interest income combines interest on loans that the bank collects and interest on deposits and debt that the bank pays out. It is a measure of the bank's ability to profit from its lending.

Fifth Third's business has rebounded in the aftermath of the nation's financial and housing crisis that hit particularly hard in key markets in Florida and Michigan. In September, Fifth Third raised its third-quarter dividend to 10 cents per share. Its dividend had been cut to 1 cent per share in late 2008.

Fifth Third has more than 1,300 banks in 12 states.

Its shares finished at $15.55 on Wednesday. They peaked for the past year at $16.16 in October. They traded as low as $12.04 in June.

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