Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) reported earnings of $373 million for the third quarter, or 40 cents a share, compared to $175 million, or 22 cents a share, a year ago. The company's third-quarter profit growth is up 112% year-over-year and comes at a time when the bank's credit trends remain favorable. The company beat analysts estimates of average earnings in the 33 cents-per-share range. The bank's average residential mortgage loan segment grew 28% year-over-year in the third quarter, reflecting a retention of mortgages, Fifth Third said. Auto loans also increased 9% year-over-year. However, both of those gains were somewhat offset by lower home equity loan balances, which fell 8% over last year due to lower demand and overall loan production. The company's net charge offs — or debts payable to the bank that are outstanding and unlikely to be paid off — hit $262 million in 3Q, their lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007. That compares to net charge offs of $304 million in the second quarter and of $956 million a year earlier. During the period, Fifth Third said the number of total delinquencies past due remained flat. The bank indicated that its European sovereign exposure, and its gross exposure to European banks is less than $0.3 billion. Write to Kerri Panchuk.