"Despite these challenges, we remain hopeful that the signs of increasing stability we saw in our operations during 2011 will continue in the future, barring significant disruptions in the national or global economies, as Ameriana and the industry attempt to return to a more normalized credit environment," Gassen added. "As we continue on this path, our focus remains on asset quality, earnings growth and internally generated capital."
Ameriana Bancorp's net interest margin on a fully tax-equivalent basis was 3.75% for the fourth quarter of 2011, up six basis points from the third quarter of 2011 and down three basis points versus the fourth quarter of 2010. The fourth quarter increase in the net interest margin compared with the prior quarter reflected relatively stable yields on earning assets coupled with lower deposit costs. For 2011, net interest margin increased 10 basis points to 3.73% compared with 3.63% for 2010, primarily as a result of a reduction in the Company's average funding cost.
The Bank recorded a provision for loan losses of $515,000 and net charge-offs of $612,000 for the fourth quarter of 2011, which resulted in an allowance for loan losses to total loans ratio of 1.30% at December 31, 2011, down from 1.39% at September 30, 2011, and 1.33% at December 31, 2010. NPLs at the end of the fourth quarter totaled $8.8 million, reflecting a slight decrease from the linked quarter and a 22% decrease from $11.2 million at December 31, 2010. NPLs were 2.8% of total loans at December 31, 2011, down from 3.0% at the end of the third quarter of 2011 and 3.5% at December 31, 2010.
Ameriana's loan portfolio increased $13.1 million or 4.3% on a linked-quarter basis as commercial loan demand strengthened in December. Residential mortgage lending also increased in the fourth quarter, reflecting continued customer refinancing and an increase in new home purchase activity.