* Ex-items EPS C$1.06 vs expectations of C$1.04
* Wholesale banking income jumps on trading
* Dividend to rise 9 pct, but could be last increase this year
By Cameron French
TORONTO, Feb 27 Toronto-Dominion Bank said on Thursday its first-quarter profit rose 15 percent on the back of stronger wholesale banking and U.S. retail banking income, and the lender boosted its dividend by a robust 9 percent.
However, the bank's chief financial officer told Reuters the dividend increase might be the only one for TD in 2014, which would break its past cycle of one increase every second quarter.
Canada's second largest earned C$2.04 billion ($1.84 billion), or C$1.07 a share, in the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, up from a year-earlier profit of C$1.78 billion, or 93 Canadian cents.
Excluding items, TD Bank, which operates a 1,300-branch network on the U.S. East Coast in addition to its Canadian retail bank, earned C$1.06 per share. That was ahead of analysts' expectations of a profit of C$1.04 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Wholesale banking income, which includes trading, investment banking, and advisory fees, leapt 44 percent to C$230 million, leading the overall profit gain.
"We just had a really strong quarter all around in wholesale," Colleen Johnston, the bank's CFO, told Reuters. "We had good trading revenue, certainly well above what we expect to be our normal level."
Canadian retail banking income rose 5 percent to C$1.3 billion on an adjusted basis, while U.S. retail banking earned $463 million, up 8 percent.
Overall revenue climbed 15 percent to C$7.6 billion, while non-interest expenses were up 17 percent to C$4.1 billion.
"Although revenues came in much higher than we had forecast ... this was eroded by higher than forecast expenses," Barclays Capital analyst John Aiken said in a research note.
The bank hiked its dividend by 4 Canadian cents to 47 Canadian cents a share, which was ahead of some analysts' expectations. But Johnston suggested the bank would break its tradition of hiking the payout every second quarter.
"This may be our only increase this year," she said.
TD is the fourth of Canada's five biggest bank to report first-quarter results. All have so far topped analysts' expectations, helped by domestic lending that has continued to grow steadily in spite of worries that a slowing housing market would pinch growth.
Earlier on Thursday, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported a 50-percent rise in quarterly profit and said it was hiking its dividend by 2 percent.
Bank of Nova Scotia will be the final big Canadian bank to report when it releases results on Tuesday.