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, KeyCorp ( KEY) of Cleveland showed a 1% increase in average loans during the third quarter, with average loans growing 5% from a year earlier. Meanwhile, Comerica ( CMA) 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 a slightly lower tax rate helped USB meet consensus, offsetting slightly weaker fee income," and added that "Overall, fundamentals look pretty solid, but some could consider the 3Q print a 'lower quality' meet." Usdin rates U.S. Bancorp a "hold," with a $39 price target. USB data by YCharts Interested in more on U.S. Bancorp? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.