Xcel Energy's fourth-quarter profits rose 7% over a year ago, just topping Wall Street forecasts.

The increase was largely due to an increase in income tax benefits.

Minneapolis-based Xcel on Thursday posted fourth-quarter earnings of $315 million or 58 cents a share; analysts on average were expecting 57 cents. In 2020's fourth quarter, Xcel had earnings of $288 million or 54 cents a share.

Xcel closed out 2021 with $1.6 billion in profits, up 6% on a per-share basis.

"We had a solid year delivering earnings of $2.96 per share and achieving our earnings guidance for the 17th consecutive year," Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel said in a news release.

Xcel, Minnesota's largest electricity provider and second largest gas company, recorded fourth-quarter sales of $3.4 billion, up from $2.9 billion a year ago.

Xcel's largest markets are Colorado and Minnesota, while it also operates in Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and a small slice of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Colorado proved to be Xcel's most dynamic market in 2021. Earnings per share rose 11 cents in Colorado over the year to $1.22.

In Minnesota, earnings per share were flat at $1.12. Xcel's Wisconsin operations also were flat 20 cents per share in 2021.

The company Thursday reaffirmed its 2022 earnings forecast of $3.10 to $3.20 per share.

Xcel's shares closed Thursday at $68.94, up 2%.