• Third-quarter EPS of 76 cents matches the consensus estimate.
  • Average loans, excluding acquired covered loans, up 2.2% from the second quarter.
  • Net interest income rises sequentially.
  • Net interest margin unchanged from the second quarter.
  • Mortgage banking revenue sinks 17% from the second quarter, 37% year over year.

Updated from 8:44 a.m. ET with market action and comment from Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin.



) --

U.S. Bancorp

(USB) - Get Report

on Wednesday reported very solid growth of average loans, at an annualized pace of nearly 9%.

The Minneapolis lender reported third-quarter earnings of $1.468 billion, or 76 cents a share, compared to $1.484 billion, or 74 cents a share, in the second quarter, and $1.474 billion, or 74 cents a share, in the third quarter of 2012.

Third-quarter EPS matched the consensus estimate among analysts polled by

Thomson Reuters


U.S. Bancorp is the sixth-largest bank holding company in the United States, with $360.7 billion in total assets as of Sept. 30.

The company's third-quarter net interest income came in at $2.714 billion, increasing from $2.672 billion the previous quarter but declining from $2.783 billion a year earlier. The net interest margin -- the spread between the average yield on loans and investments and the average cost for deposits and borrowings -- was 3.43% during the third quarter, which was stable from the second quarter but down from 3.59% in the third quarter of 2012. The year-over-year margin decline reflects the industry trend, as the

Federal Reserve

has kept the short-term federal funds rate in a range of zero to 0.25% since late 2008.

USB's noninterest income declined to $2.177 billion in the third quarter from $2.276 billion the previous quarter and $2.396 billion a year earlier. The main factor in this decline was the decline in mortgage banking revenue to $328 million in the third quarter, from $396 million in the second quarter and $519 million in the third quarter of 2012. This also follows the expected industry trend, as the mortgage loan refinancing wave has been curtailed by a significant rise in long-term interest rates over the past six months.

Another expected trend for major banks has been "reduced credit leverage," as banks see less of a benefit from improved loan quality. U.S. Bancorp's third-quarter provision for loan losses was $2.028 billion, declining very slightly from $2.029 billion in the second quarter and down from $2082 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. The provision is the amount added to loan loss reserves.

The company's total noninterest expense for the third quarter was $2.565 billion, increasing slightly from $2.557 billion the previous quarter, but down nearly 2% from $2.609 billion a year earlier.

USB's major third-quarter highlight was loan production, with average loans -- excluding acquired loans covered by government guarantees -- increasing by 2.2% sequentially in the third quarter to $219.629 billion. Average loans were up 7.5% from a year earlier. The company achieved growth in all lending categories, except for commercial leases and home equity and second mortgage loans. The strongest growth in average loans during the third quarter was in construction and development loans, which were up 6.8% from the second quarter to $6.955 billion.

Among other regional lenders reporting on Wednesday,


(KEY) - Get Report

of Cleveland showed a 1% increase in average loans during the third quarter, with

average loans growing 5% from a year earlier




(CMA) - Get Report

of Dallas reported a

2% sequential decline in average loans

, with year-over-year loan growth of just 1%.

U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis in a press release tied the company's performance to "our continuing ability to manage through the current uncertain and slow-growing economy. Our Company produced industry-leading performance metrics, including return on average assets of 1.65 percent, return on average common equity of 15.8 percent and an efficiency ratio of 52.4 percent, as our diversified mix of businesses mitigated the impact of the pull-back in mortgage banking activity."

The efficiency ratio is, essentially, the number of pennies of overhead expenses a bank incurs for each dollar of revenue. Lower is better, and USB's 52.4% efficiency ratio is considered "good" for a bank of its size. But the third-quarter efficiency ratio compared unfavorably to 51.7% in the second quarter and 50.4% in the third quarter of 2012 because of the decline in noninterest income.

Shares of USB were up 2% in morning trading to $37.55.

Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin in a note to clients wrote that "Better credit and aslightly lower tax rate helped USB meet consensus, offsetting slightly weakerfee income," and added that "Overall, fundamentals look prettysolid, but some could consider the 3Q print a 'lower quality' meet."

Usdin rates U.S. Bancorp a "hold," with a $39 price target.

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-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.