Net interest and dividend income for Q4-12 decreased due to a smaller balance sheet. In Q4-12, average interest-earning assets decreased by $339 million from Q4-11, reflecting decreases of $79 million in loans and $260 million in total securities and overnight investments. At the same time, average deposits and borrowed funds decreased by $272 million and $15 million, respectively, while stockholders' equity increased by $13 million. The net interest margin benefited from a 31 basis point improvement in the interest rate spread, partially offset by a $52 million decrease in net average interest-earning assets (due to a higher level of cash on hand). The spread increased due to a steady reduction in rates paid on deposits and run off of higher-cost CDs and borrowings, largely offset by payoffs of higher yielding loans and calls of security investments, coupled with the re-investment of a large portion of these cash inflows into new loans and securities at lower market interest rates. Overall, the average cost of funds decreased by 40 basis points to 2.22% in Q4-12, from 2.62% in Q4-11, while the average yield on earning assets decreased at a slower pace or by 9 basis points to 4.54% in Q4-12, from 4.63% in Q4-11.
Net earnings for 2012 increased by $0.9 million over 2011 due to a $5.0 million decrease in the provision for loan losses (primarily due to fewer loans outstanding and fewer credit rating downgrades) and a $1.8 million increase in noninterest income (primarily due to a $2.6 million increase in loan prepayment income partially offset by a $0.4 million increase in security impairment charges). The sum of these items was partially offset by: a $3.1 million decrease in net interest and dividend income (due to a smaller balance sheet); a $0.7 million increase in the provision for real estate losses (due to lower estimated values on REO); a $0.5 million increase in real estate expenses associated with REO; a $0.8 million increase in operating expenses (primarily due to a $1.4 million aggregate increase in salaries, benefits and stock compensation expense including the impact of increased officers during 2012, partially offset by a $0.7 million decrease in FDIC insurance expense); and a $0.8 million increase in income tax expense (due to higher pre-tax income).