Synovus Financial (NYSE:SNV) reported earnings for its third quarter this morning, and despite missing slightly on EPS expectations, it has been relatively flat this morning. With analysts expecting $0.03 in earnings per share, the bank checked in at $0.02. The year has been better to this point compared to last year however, improving from a $131.5 million loss during the first nine months last year to net income of $62.2 million this year.

What I was watching
In addition to the standard metrics referenced above, I was also watching for continued improvement of the bank's balance sheet. One big thing that would boost performance would be to repay nearly $1 billion in TARP funds sooner rather than later, but the bank's balance sheet may not be quite strong enough yet. Total nonperforming assets were declined by 6% from the previous quarter and are down nearly 23% from the same quarter last year. Total loans decreased slightly during the quarter, but it didn't seem to affect the bank's overall performance.

What to expect going forward
After a horrible 2011, any positive news is great as the bank tries to right the ship. Paying back the above mentioned TARP money would be a great first step. In the meantime, the bank should continue to focus on improving its credit quality to further accelerate its return to respectability. The bank is nearly four years removed from paying a quarterly dividend above $0.01, but it is probably not that far from being able to pay a bit more. Yearly results next quarter should better indicate how long investors will have to wait.

Robert Eberhard has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Follow him on Twitter for more earnings news throughout the next few weeks. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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