The interest rate environment hasn't gotten any better lately, and results for Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank (NYSE:MTB) certainly reflect that. While this lender has a history of sound lending and operating decisions, there isn't really much it can do on its own to improve the yield curve or stimulate commercial loan demand.

As such, reported earnings per share were up about 5% for the third quarter on top of 2% net income growth. There were, though, some items of note that went into those numbers. First, the company recognized an impairment charge on preferred stock of Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) that amounted to $18 million and $0.06 per share. Elsewhere, the tax consequences of a reorganization of subsidiaries and a charitable contribution reduced year-ago results by $3 million or $0.02 per share.

Net interest margin declined slightly, from 3.85% to 3.76%, as the bank couldn't offset rising deposit rates with similar increases in loan rates. On a happier note, the efficiency ratio improved again, reaching 50% this quarter versus 52.7% last year (after stripping out the charitable contribution). Return on assets and return on equity both dipped slightly versus last year but are both still quite respectable.

Loan growth and deposit growth were both about 6% in the quarter. On the loan side, the commercial business was hampered a bit by slower performance in loans to auto dealers, as dealers clear out inventory to make way for new models. Charge-offs and non-performing loan levels were still quite good, though. For deposits, I'm a little concerned that so much of the growth was in more expensive time deposits, but this is not a problem unique to M&T.

These are admittedly tough times to get excited about bank stocks, even if M&T is one of the few large Northeastern banks with a positive stock return over the past year. Where you don't have scandals like Doral (NYSE:DRL), you have generally tougher conditions weighing on the performance at places like Commerce Bancorp (NYSE:CBH) and Fifth Third (NASDAQ:FITB). Still, sometimes buying when nobody else wants to is what scores you a bargain. Banks will have their days in the sun again, and I'd suggest that prudent Fools use their time now to identify some quality ideas that might be worth a bid now, or if prices ease off a bit more.

For more bankable Takes:

For those who'd like a little more in-depth discussion of what things like efficiency ratios mean, please review my column "A Closer Look at Bank Stocks."

Doral and Fannie Mae are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).