BB&T Corp. (BBT) reported fourth-quarter earnings of $391 million, or 55 cents a share, an 88% increase over the year-ago period — in its strongest quarterly earnings since mid 2008. The increase was driven by improved revenues, accelerating loan growth and much improved credit quality. Earnings per share in 4Q 2010 were 30 cents. Revenue for 4Q was $2.4 billion up $78 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. BB&T Corp. (BBT) reported fourth-quarter earnings of $391 million, or 55 cents a share, an 88% increase over the year-ago period — in its strongest quarterly earnings since mid 2008. The increase was driven by improved revenues, accelerating loan growth and much improved credit quality. Earnings per share in 4Q 2010 were 30 cents. Revenue for 4Q was $2.4 billion up $78 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. For 2011, BB&T reported earnings of $1.3 billion, or $1.83 a share, compared with $816 million, or $1.16 a share, earned in 2010 — a 58% increase. "The year 2011 was an outstanding year for BB&T considering the challenges facing the economy and financial services industry," said Chairman and CEO Kelly King. "We met essentially all of our strategic objectives, and are successfully emerging from the credit cycle." King said one of BB&T's successes for the quarter was a new effort to lower its balances of foreclosed property via a more aggressive disposition strategy. The bank's real estate owned balances, excluding covered foreclosed property, declined 41% and nonperforming assets declined 17% by the end of the quarter over the third quarter. BB&T reported that average mortgage loan balances increased 18% over the year-ago period and were up 26% over 3Q2011. BB&T said its level of nonperforming assets, loan delinquencies and the outlook for future credit losses improved significantly during 2011. The provision for credit losses, excluding covered loans, for the fourth quarter of 2011 declined $320 million, or 58.9%, compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, as improved credit quality resulted in a lower provision expense, the bank said. Mortgage banking income, however, was down slightly to $135 million compared to $138 million in the year-ago quarter. Residential mortgage loans for sale were up 10.6% over the year-ago period on higher production and the favorable interest rate environment. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.