PITTSBURGH, Pa. ( TheStreet) -- PNC Financial ( PNC) on Thursday reported fourth-quarter net income of $798 million, or $1.50 a share, beating the consensus estimate of $1.38 cents a share among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The fourth-quarter results compared to net income of $1.1 billion, or $2.07 cents a share, in the third quarter and $1 billion, or $2.17 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2009. Fourth-quarter 2010 results included a $160 million gain on the sale of PNC's stake in BlackRock ( NLK), as part of that company's secondary offering in November. Results a year earlier included a $1.1 billion gain on PNC's portion of BlackRock's gain on its acquisition of Barclays Global Investors from Barclays PLC ( BCS). Third-quarter earnings were boosted by $328 million after-tax gain on the company's sale of its PNC Global Investment Servicing business to Bank of New York Mellon ( BK), which was completed in July. For the full year, PNC reported net income to common shareholders of $3 billion, or $5.74 a share, increasing from $2 billion, or $4.36 a share, in 2009. The company's credit expenses continued to improve, with a fourth-quarter provision for credit losses of $442 million, compared to $486 million the previous quarter and $1 billion a year earlier. Fourth-quarter net charge-offs - loan losses less recoveries - totaled $791 million and exceeded the provision for credit losses by $349 million. The reserve release of $349 million boosted PNC's bottom line, following the trend for many large banks, including Citigroup ( C), which reported a net release of allowance for loan losses and unfunded lending commitments was $2.3 billion, Wells Fargo ( WFC), which released $850 million from reserves; and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), which saw a $1.9 billion decline in loan loss reserves. The fourth-quarter ratio of net charge-offs to average loans was 2.09%. Loan loss reserves covered 3.25% of total loans as of December 31, staying "well ahead of the pace" of charge-offs, despite the reserve release. The net interest margin - essentially a bank's average yield on loans and investments less its average cost of funds - was 3.93% during the fourth quarter, declining from 3.96% the previous quarter and 4.05% a year earlier, which PNC attributed to "lower purchase accounting accretion, continued soft loan demand and the low interest rate environment partially offset by deposit repricing."