NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial (PNC - Get Report) , the eighth-largest bank in the U.S. by total assets, on Friday reported fourth-quarter revenue and profits that beat Wall Street expectations. PNC said it bought back a total of 12.9 million shares in 2014, totaling $1.1 billion. PNC is worth a look now. And its 2.3% dividend, which should increase in the years ahead, makes it worth holding.
For the period ending in December, PNC reported net income of $1.1 billion, or $1.84 per share, compared to last year's net income of $1.1 billion, or $1.87 per share. Despite the decline in earnings per share, the bank was able to beat analysts' estimates of $1.74 per share by 10 cents. The bank said fourth-quarter revenue was $3.95 billion, falling 3% year over year, but still beating the $3.8 billion analysts were looking for.
For the full year, the bank said profits climbed 5% year over year to $4.18 billion, or $7.30 per share. Revenue, meanwhile, fell 9% year over year to $15.38 billion.
PNC, like other regional banks SunTrust (STI - Get Report) and Comerica (CMA - Get Report) , is figuring out ways to offset declining revenues and low interest rates, and to boost the bottom line. PNC said it benefited from a 3% sequential jump in deposits, which increased to $5.9 billion, helped by higher demand and money market deposits.
Looking at other parts of the business, PNC reported a 9.6% year-over-year jump in commercial loans, which reached $128.4 billion during the quarter, helped by a 4.7% jump in total loans. And PNC's loan growth mirrors the recent reports by SunTrust Bank and Comerica. The latter said Friday its commercial loans climb by $203 million.
The regional banks are seeing the benefit of a stronger economy and a drop in jobless rates. And PNC's loan growth suggests that the sector may soon be buoyed by the December report suggesting a 9.3% jump in commercial and industrial loans at U.S. banks.
During the quarter, PNC said its net interest margin, the difference between what a bank pays for deposits and charges for loans, fell to 2.89% from 2.98%, missing estimates of 2.91%.
PNC shares were trading higher Friday afternoon, up about 2% to $84.09.
The stock is down 7.8% on the year to date, compared with declines of 2.3% and 2.4% in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) , respectively. PNC shares have traded down 1.3% in the last six months.
Analysts expected PNC to grow earnings at a 6% annual rate in the next five years, according to CNN Money. The stock has an average analyst 12-month target of $95.