Sterling Bancorp (STL) noted a 51% jump in fourth-quarter earnings, as the financial holding company benefited from loan volume growth. The New York-based bank earned $5.3 million, or 17 cents a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $3.5 million, or 13 cents a share, a year earlier. For the entire year, Sterling earned $15.5 million, more than triple income of $4.4 million in 2010. The company cushioned its earnings with a tax benefit from the 2002 and 2009 tax periods. Meanwhile, it paid out $900,000 in expenses to settle litigation and wrote down $600,000 in assets. At Dec. 31, Sterling Bancorp's loan portfolio was up 12% to $1.5 billion. Total noninterest income fell to $44.1 million for 2011, from $47.6 million in 2010. "This primarily reflected higher accounts receivable management and other related fees, more than offset by lower residential mortgage banking income, service charges and securities gains," Sterling said in its earnings statement. The company has redeemed all of its preferred stock and warrants issued by the Treasury under TARP. Write to Kerri Panchuk.