Total personnel expense was $87.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, a decrease of $.8 million, or 1%, from the third quarter of 2012. The linked-quarter decrease mainly reflects the staff reductions associated with previously announced branch consolidations.
Other operating expense totaled $45.1 million, down $4.9 million from the third quarter of 2012. The linked-quarter decrease was mainly related to reductions in professional service expense, telephone and data processing expense, advertising expense and ORE expense.
Amortization of intangibles totaled $7.7 million during the fourth quarter, down from $8.1 million in the third quarter of 2012.
Operating expense, excluding amortization of intangibles, was $150.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2012. The Company had previously provided operating expense guidance for the fourth quarter of 2012 of $149 million to $153 million, excluding amortization of intangibles. The fourth quarter's operating expense level reflects realization of 100% of the cost savings targeted with the Whitney acquisition. As in previous years, management expects total noninterest expense will increase in the first quarter of 2013 due to the seasonal nature of certain line items.
The effective income tax rate for the fourth quarter of 2012 was 20%, down from 26% in the third quarter of 2012. The linked-quarter decline is mainly related to additional new markets tax credits and historical rehabilitation tax credits added in the fourth quarter. Management expects the effective tax rate to approximate 26-28% in 2013. The effective income tax rate continues to be less than the statutory rate of 35%, due primarily to tax-exempt income and tax credits.
Common shareholders' equity totaled $2.5 billion at December 31, 2012. The Company remained well-capitalized, and its tangible common equity (TCE) ratio of 8.77% remained strong at December 31, 2012. The linked-quarter decline in the TCE ratio of 32 bps was mainly related to the $0.9 billion increase in total assets. Additional capital ratios are included in the financial tables.