Total net revenue on a taxable-equivalent basis for the fourth quarter of 2012 was $5,112 million; $8 million (.2 percent) higher than the fourth quarter of 2011, reflecting a 4.1 percent increase in net interest income, largely offset by a 4.2 percent decrease in noninterest income. The increase in net interest income year-over-year was the result of higher average earning assets, continued growth in lower cost core deposit funding and the positive impact from long-term debt repricing. Noninterest income decreased year-over-year, primarily due to the $263 million merchant settlement gain recorded in the fourth quarter of 2011, partially offset by higher mortgage banking revenue in the current quarter. Total net revenue on a taxable-equivalent basis was $67 million (1.3 percent) lower on a linked quarter basis due to lower fee-based revenue driven by a reduction in mortgage banking revenue and the net impact of a third quarter of 2012 gain on sale of a credit card portfolio and a charge related to an investment under the equity method of accounting.
Total noninterest expense in the fourth quarter of 2012 was $2,686 million; $10 million (.4 percent) lower than the fourth quarter of 2011 and $77 million (3.0 percent) higher than the third quarter of 2012. The decrease in total noninterest expense year-over-year was primarily due to the accrual for mortgage servicing related matters recorded in fourth quarter of 2011, partially offset by the current quarter mortgage foreclosure-related regulatory settlement accrual, as well as higher mortgage servicing review-related professional services costs. Total noninterest expense on a linked quarter basis was higher, primarily due to the accrual for the mortgage foreclosure-related regulatory settlement and an increase in mortgage servicing review-related professional services costs, partially offset by lower compensation expense.
The Company’s provision for credit losses for the fourth quarter of 2012 was $443 million, $45 million lower than the prior quarter and $54 million lower than the fourth quarter of 2011. The third quarter of 2012 provision for credit losses included $54 million in charge-offs related to a regulatory clarification in the treatment of residential mortgage and other consumer loans to borrowers who have had debt discharged through bankruptcy but continue to make payments on their loans. The provision for credit losses was lower than net charge-offs by $25 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, $50 million in the third quarter of 2012 and $125 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Net charge-offs in the fourth quarter of 2012 were $468 million, compared with $538 million in the third quarter of 2012, and $622 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Given current economic conditions, the Company expects the level of net charge-offs to be relatively stable to down modestly in the first quarter of 2013.