U.S. Bancorp (USB) grew its first-quarter profit from $669 million, or 34 cents per share,  last year to $1.046 billion, or 52 cents per share,  in the most recent 1Q as the firm's loan business expanded by 2.4% during the period. The company beat the average analyst forecast by three cents, with most analysts forecasting earnings-per-share in the 49-cent range, according to Yahoo! Finance. Meanwhile, net revenue on a year-over-year basis grew 4.6% to $4.5 billion from $4.3 billion last year. Net charge-offs — or the percentage of debt deemed unrecoverable — fell 14.1% from the fourth quarter as the bank noted a trend in stronger credit quality within its lending segment. "Our adherence to prudent underwriting and an improving economy resulted in significantly lower credit costs for the first quarter," the bank wrote. "Lower net charge-offs, improving risk ratings and a more positive economic outlook led to a $50 million reserve release in the current quarter, compared with a reserve build of $175 million in the first quarter of last year and a $25 million reserve release in the prior quarter. We expect net charge-offs and nonperforming assets to decline again in the coming quarter." Lending activity also picked up with U.S. Bancorp lending $47.4 billion. That amount included $17.7 billion in mortgage and retail originations. Write to Kerri Panchuk.