Wachovia, the nation's fourth-largest bank, reported a strong 35% gain in fourth-quarter profit.

In the quarter, the Charlotte, N.C.-based lender earned $2.3 billion, or $1.20 a share, compared to $1.71 billion, or $1.09 a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 31% to $8.59.

Operating earnings, which excludes merger and other restructuring charges, totaled $2.33 billion, or $1.21 a share

Operating earnings and revenue both surpassed the Thomson Financial consensus forecasts. Analysts had been looking for earnings of $1.18 a share on revenue of $7.81 billion.

Net interest income, the profit bank makes from its lending and deposit operation, rose to $4.61 billion from $3.58 billion. Noninterest expense totaled $4.93 billion, up from $4.18 billion a year earlier.

In early trading, shares of Wachovia were up 11 cents to $56.38.

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