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1st Federal parent sees earnings rise

Northeast Indiana Bancorp Inc. on Friday reported record annual earnings for last year. The financial services company reported 2012 earnings of $2.86 million, or $2.31 per diluted common share, a 40 percent jump from the $2.04 million, or $1.65 a share, posted for 2011.

The Huntington-based parent of First Federal Savings Bank also reported record fourth-quarter earnings of $913,187, or 74 cents per diluted common share, a 23 percent increase from the $742,814, or 60 cents a share, posted for the same three months of the prior year.

First Federal Savings Bank converted last year from a federal thrift charter to an Indiana commercial bank charter. Bank officials decided to make the change because federal thrift rules require a certain minimum of total assets be used for residential mortgages and no more than 20 percent of total loans be made to business borrowers. The bank is anticipating growth in commercial lending, an official said in June.

Centier Bank to open branch inside Kroger

Centier Bank on Friday announced plans to open its first Fort Wayne branch inside the Kroger Marketplace store at 601 E. Dupont Road.

The Merrillville-based bank in 2008 opened a commercial loan office at 9921 Dupont Circle Drive West, Suite 110. That office will remain open and is hiring two mortgage loan originators.

Renovations will begin on the 600-square-foot space inside Kroger in March. The branch is scheduled to open in April with four teller windows, a new accounts office, a drop box and a 24-hour ATM. Centier plans to hire two tellers, a branch manager, an assistant manager and an operations supervisor for the location.

Centier is replacing Salin Bank, which decided to move out of Kroger in favor of building a new branch at 9835 Lima Road in front of the Walmart store. Salin is serving customers out of a temporary trailer at the construction site until its new branch opens.

GM lowers price on Chevy Malibu

General Motors, in an effort to make its Chevrolet Malibu more appealing to online car shoppers, has lowered the car’s price by hundreds of dollars to compete with better-selling midsize sedans.

GM, based in Detroit, lowered the prices of Malibu by as much as $770 as the automaker seeks to improve its results in a segment that includes five of the 20 most popular vehicles in the U.S. The average price was reduced by about $450.

The entry-level Malibu’s starting price was reduced by $345 to $21,995, which excludes an $810 freight charge.

Trade gap eases to three-year low

A jump in energy-related exports and a steep decline in oil imports lowered the U.S. trade deficit in December to nearly a three-year low.

The improvement suggests the economy grew in the October-December quarter instead of shrinking as the government estimated last week.

A brighter outlook for trade also illustrates how a boom in oil and gas production is reducing crude oil imports and making the U.S. a leader in the export of fuels. And it shows that higher domestic sales of fuel-efficient cars are lowering dependence on oil.

The trade gap fell nearly 21 percent in December from November to $38.6 billion.