Net interest income for the fourth quarter increased 52% to $6.0 million from $3.9 million in the year-earlier quarter, primarily reflecting a higher level of interest-earning assets as reduced funding costs offset lower loan yields. The Company's net interest margin increased 16 basis points to 3.88% in the fourth quarter of 2010 from 3.72% in the year-earlier period and increased 31 basis points on a linked-quarter basis from 3.57% in the third quarter of 2010. Net interest income for 2010 increased 38% to $20.2 million from $14.6 million for the year-earlier period, again primarily reflecting a higher level of interest-earning assets. The Company's net interest margin was 3.66% for 2010, an increase of 17 basis points from 3.49% in the comparable period last year.
Total nonperforming loans and nonperforming assets were $9.9 million and $13.8 million, respectively, at December 31, 2010, down from $12.2 million and $15.0 million, respectively, at September 30, 2010, but up from $8.5 million and $10.3 million, respectively, at December 31, 2009. Nonperforming loans to total loans declined during the fourth quarter versus the third quarter of 2010, falling to 2.37% as of December 31, 2010, versus 2.95% as of September 30, 2010, and 2.53% at December 31, 2009. The decline in the levels of nonperforming loans and assets at December 31, 2010, primarily reflected migration of loans to foreclosure status and increased charge-off activity as the Company continued to aggressively confront credit quality issues in its loan portfolio. Net charge-offs to average outstanding loans in the total portfolio, on an annualized basis, were 1.75% for the fourth quarter of 2010 versus 0.45% for the third quarter of 2010 and 7.42% in the year-earlier period, with the latter reflecting additional provisioning and write-off related to a single nonperforming loan on raw land in Atlanta, Georgia. The Company continues to reduce its exposure to acquisition, construction and development loans, which were 6% of its core portfolio at December 31, 2010, from 9% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2009. Management believes that nonperforming assets and net charge-offs will likely remain at elevated levels, at least in the near term, because of the continued weakness in the economy.