Fourth-quarter noninterest income totaled $536 million, increasing from $533 million in the third quarter and $507 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Fourth-quarter mortgage income totaled $90 million, declining from $106 million the previous quarter, but increasing from $57 million a year earlier. The sequential decline in mortgage income was offset by a $10 million increase in service charges on deposit accounts, to $254 million, as well as an increase in other noninterest income.
The fourth-quarter provision for loan losses was $37 million, while the company saw net loan charge-offs of $180 million, for a reserve release of $143 million, boosting operating earnings.
The fourth-quarter ratio of net charge-offs to average loans was an annualized 0.96%, declining from 1.38% the previous quarter and 2.16% a year earlier. Regions reported a Dec. 31 ratio of nonperforming assets (including nonaccrual loans, loans past due 90 days or more and foreclosed assets) to loans, foreclosed properties and nonperforming loans held for sale, of 3.19%, improving from 3.47% in September and 4.40% in December 2011. Loan loss reserves covered 2.59% of total loans as of Dec. 31.
The company reported an adjusted fourth-quarter return on average assets from continuing operations of 1.02% and an adjusted return on average tangible common equity of 11.93%. Regions also estimated a Basel III Tier 1 common equity ratio of 8.9% as of Dec. 31.Wrapping up a transformational 2012 that include the sale of the company's Morgan Keegan brokerage subsidiary to Raymond James Financial (RJF) and a $900 million common equity raise in the first quarter, followed by the full redemption in the second quarter of $3.5 billion in preferred shares held by the government for bailout assistance received through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, Regions CEO Grayson Hall said "I am pleased with the progress we made in 2012 and am encouraged that our efforts are building a strong foundation for sustainable growth in 2013 and beyond." Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin said in a note following the earnings release that "pre-provision earnings were stronger-than-expected, mainly on lower expenses," and that a "flat NIM guide could keep forward net interest income estimates fairly stable."