Peoples Bancorp (PEBK) in Newton, N.C., reported higher earnings in the second quarter than a year earlier thanks to a stronger loan portfolio.

The $1-billion-asset company's income was $2.6 million for the three-month period ending June 30, up 56% from the same time last year. Earnings were 45 cents per common share.

Earnings were boosted by strong performance in the bank's mortgage division. Net interest income increased 13%, to $8.5 million.

The net interest margin rose 48 basis points, to 3.88%.

The bank also set aside less for bad loans, as its provision for losses fell 91%, to $67,000. Net chargeoffs declined by 55%, to $597,000.

Returns from interest-bearing assets helped offset a drop in revenue from fees and investments. Noninterest income declined by 6%, to $3.1 million. The bank attributed the change to lower returns on the sale of securities, as well as a drop in income from mortgage banking fees.

Noninterest expenses remained steady over the period, climbing only 1%, to $8.1 million, because of an increase in occupancy-related costs.

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