Strong growth in indirect auto loan production and continued steady performance in commercial and industrial lending partially offset anticipated declines in real estate loans and continued deleveraging among both commercial clients and consumers. Average loans declined 1.4 percent sequentially driven by declines in investor real estate and commercial owner-occupied loans. Investor real estate now comprises 10 percent of the total loan portfolio compared to 14 percent one year ago.
Consumer loan production totaled $2.9 billion in the fourth quarter, which is an increase of 21 percent over the prior year. Indirect auto loans experienced an increase in average balances of 6.7 percent linked quarter. This was offset by declines in the residential mortgage and home equity portfolios as consumers continue to pay down debt. As an extension of the bank’s growing indirect auto business, Regions recently launched the Regions Auto Center and Auto Buying Service, allowing customers to research, shop for, finance, and insure a vehicle through the Regions Auto Center housed on the company’s website.
The company’s aggregate loan yield was up 3 basis points linked quarter to 4.21 percent, driven primarily by interest recoveries on non-accrual loans.
Funding mix improvement continues to drive decline in deposit costsAverage low-cost deposits grew 1.9 percent linked quarter while higher cost time deposits declined 8.5 percent. This continued shift drove an improvement in the company’s funding mix during the quarter, as average low-cost deposits as a percentage of total deposits rose to 86 percent compared to 80 percent last year. This positive mix shift resulted in deposit costs declining to 22 basis points for the quarter, down 6 basis points from third quarter and 18 basis points from last year. Total funding costs declined to 50 basis points, down 18 basis points from one year ago. Taxable equivalent net interest income was $831 million, a $1 million increase linked quarter. The resulting net interest margin expanded 2 basis points linked quarter to 3.10 percent, primarily attributable to interest recoveries and lower deposit costs.