1st Mariner Bancorp, parent of Baltimore's largest independent bank, reported Tuesday that it lost $2.4 million in the second quarter, or 37 cents per share.

That compares with a loss of $469,000, or 7 cents per share, for the corresponding quarter a year ago.

Despite the steep loss in the second quarter ended June 30, the company noted that it is smaller than the loss of $3.1 million in the first quarter of this year and the $9.06 million loss in the last quarter of 2008.

"It's less bad, but it's hardly good," said banking consultant Bert Ely. "They are still taking losses ... and the losses are not insignificant."

Among the other highlights: Assets at the end of the quarter totaled $1.459 billion, a 13 percent increase over a year ago. Total revenue rose 7 percent over last year to $1.43 million. Total loans rose 8 percent to $997 million and deposits increased 16 percent to $1.09 billion compared with a year ago.

Edwin F. Hale Jr., chairman and chief executive, said the company will focus on increasing its capital levels. "While credit quality may be stabilizing, we do not see convincing evidence that the credit environment is improving, making the task of increasing our capital levels appropriate in light of these uncertain market conditions," he said in a prepared statement.

Hale also said that nonperforming loans, those in default or nearly so, fell from the first quarter of this year, yet the company had to boost its loan loss reserves because real estate values continued to drop. Provisions for loan losses reached $4.34 million, up from $2.5 million a year ago. "Lower appraisals result in higher reserve levels and in increased losses as we liquidate foreclosed properties," Hale said.

1st Mariner released its earnings after the stock market closed. The company's stock Tuesday fell 2 cents to $1.33 per share.

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