The company's noninterest income declined to $981 million in the first quarter from $1.096 billion in the fourth quarter and $1.521 billion a year earlier. The sequential decline reflected $97 million provision for mortgage repurchase claims in the first quarter. There was no provision for mortgage putback claims in the fourth quarter. The provision was $169 million in the first quarter of 2012. The year-over-year noninterest income decline reflected the prior period's gain on the ING Direct (USA) purchase.

First-quarter non-interest expense totaled $3.028 billion, declining from $3.255 billion in the fourth quarter, and increasing from $2.504 billion in the first quarter of 2012.

The provision for credit losses -- which is the amount added to loan loss reserves each quarter, thus lowering pretax earnings -- was $885 million in the first quarter, declining from $1.151 billion in the fourth quarter, and increasing from $573 million a year earlier.

Oppenheimer analyst Chris Kotowski rates Capital One "outperform," with a 12 to 18 month price target of $69. In a note to clients late on Thursday, the analyst wrote that "COF's 1Q13 was a tad better than we expected and way better than our worst fears."

While the first-quarter results were padded with a release of loan loss reserves that added 23 cents a share to the bottom line, the results were "still a dime better than expected," Kotowski wrote.

Kotowski raised his 2013 EPS estimate for Capital One to $6.71 from $6.48, and his 2014 EPS estimate to $6.86 from $6.79. "COF remains one of our top picks," he wrote. "Operating return on tangible common equity was 16.5%, the card business is resilient and granular with generally good earnings visibility and should fetch more that 8x current year's earnings."

Capital One's shares are down 3% this year, following a 38% return during 2012. The shares trade for 8.4 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $6.66. That is one of the lowest forward price-to-earnings valuations among large U.S. banks.

COF Chart COF data by YCharts

Interested in more on Capital One? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

-- 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.

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