Thank you operator, and welcome to our first quarter conference call. Joining me today is Chris Niles, who recently assumed the role of chief financial officer from Joe Selner, after Joe’s retirement announcement last month.
Joe has led the company’s finance function for nearly three decades, and has guidance Associated through periods of tremendous growth, including several mergers and acquisitions. I feel very fortunate to have worked with Joe to restore Associated to a strong and profitable company. Joe will continue to support the company as a member of various operating committees until his retirement later this summer. Joining us as well today is Scott Hickey, our chief credit officer.
I’ll begin by reviewing our results for the quarter, then provide you with an update on the key drivers of our business, and finally share our outlook for the rest of the year. In general, this quarter’s performance was in line with our expectations and I’m pleased to reiterate our outlook for the balance of 2012.
First quarter highlights are outlined on slide two. We reported net income available to common shareholders of $41 million, or $0.24 a share. this compares to net income of $40 million, or $0.23 a share for the fourth quarter and $15 million, or $0.09 a share from a year ago. This quarter’s net income to common shareholders now stands at the highest level since early 2008. Also during the quarter, we increased to common dividend to $0.05 per share.
Loan balances continued to grow during the quarter, and increased by $223 million, or 2%, to $14.3 billion. Net interest income increased by $3 million to $155 million, while net interest margin grew from the prior quarter to 331 basis points. We continue to see steady improvement in credit quality including a 9% decline in nonperforming assets this quarter. Nonperforming assets of $362 million are at the lowest level in nine quarters, and now represent just 165% of total assets. We recorded zero provision for loan losses this quarter.