"During the fourth quarter of 2012, loans increased $66 million or 36% on an annualized basis. Much of this growth occurred in December, as customers were anxious to close, prior to year end due to uncertainty around the potential "Fiscal Cliff" and future income tax rates," noted Mr. O'Connor.
Asset quality measures remained strong as non-performing assets ("NPA") at December 2012 declined 15% to $3.5 million from $4.2 million at December 2011. This represents only 0.22% of total assets, compared to 0.31% at December 2011. For 2012, the allowance for loan losses increased $3.6 million to $14.4 million. The allowance as a percentage of total loans at December 2012 remained stable at 1.81% compared to 1.77% at December 2011.
Stockholders' equity grew $11.7 million to $118.7 million, reflecting the capital raised through the Dividend Reinvestment Plan, as well as continued earnings growth, net of dividends. Overall, Tier 1 capital increased to $132.9 million or 12% higher than the December 2011 level. In addition, the Company's capital levels reflect five dividend payments to shareholders in 2012, as the payment of the fourth quarter 2012 dividend was accelerated and paid in December. The Company's capital ratios exceed all regulatory minimums, and it continues to be classified as well capitalized.
Challenges & Opportunities"Five years after the financial crisis, the Banking environment remains uncertain, as we deal with the fallout from both regulatory activity and the economic impact of decisions made during and subsequent to the crisis. The costs, in terms of compliance and greater capitalization, continue impacting shareholder expectations and returns. Additionally, the persistently low level of market interest rates has created opportunities for borrowers, but substantial challenges for banks and other financial intermediaries. The eventuality of rising rates is arguably our industry's greatest challenge and threat, creating margin pressures and ultimately impacting credit, as businesses adjust and manage with potentially higher borrowing costs. The credit environment appears to be stabilizing and our Company and many of our customers avoided significant damage from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, however, the continued confidence of consumers and businesses remains critical to future economic activity.