Regional bank SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) earned net income of $38 million, or 8 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2011, as credit quality continued to improve and expenses declined. That's an improvement from a loss of $229 million, or 46 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding the redemption of Troubled Asset Relief Program shares, earnings were $112 million, or 22 cents a share, or essentially flat with the 23 cents per share in the fourth quarter. The bank completed its TARP payments in the first quarter of 2011. "Our emphasis on profitable growth and continued credit quality improvement resulted in solid performance that was in line with our expectations for the quarter," said James M. Wells III, chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Banks. Atlanta-based SunTrust said its credit quality continued to improve with net charge-offs, nonperforming loans, nonperforming assets and early stage delinquencies all declining. Revenue was $2.16 billion in 1Q, up from $1.9 billion in the comparable quarter, but down from $2.33 billion in the fourth quarter. The 7% decline on a sequential quarter basis was primarily in noninterest income and due, in part, to lower mortgage production, the bank said. Mortgage production and servicing income was a combined $71 million in the current quarter, compared with $109 million in the prior quarter and $39 million in the prior year. The $38 million, or 35%, decline on a sequential quarter basis was due to lower mortgage production due to the impact of higher mortgage interest rates on refinance activity, among other factors. The $32 million increase in mortgage income from the prior year was primarily due to a $48 million decline in mortgage repurchase costs, SunTrust said. Mortgage servicing income was essentially flat compared to the prior quarter and prior year.  The mortgage servicing portfolio was $164.4 billion as of March 31. Nonperforming loans declined for the seventh consecutive quarter and, as of March 31, were $4 billion, down from $5.2 billion the prior year. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.