Credit Suisse posted a net profit of 44 million Swiss francs, compared to 1.13 billion net profit last year. The quarter's profits were bolstered by 178 million francs due to the selling down of its stake in Aberdeen Asset Management.
Analyst estimates in a Reuters poll called for a 436 million Swiss franc net loss.
The Swiss bank did not add to ongoing job cuts of 7 percent of its workforce, or roughly 3,500 staff, as some analysts had expected, but said it is ahead of a target to cut costs by 1.2 billion francs, when extrapolating the first quarter to 2012.
Credit Suisse said it is encouraged by the first quarter.
We are very confident that by executing our strategy consistently, we will be able to deliver our target return on equity of 15 percent or more over the cycle, chairman Urs Rohner and Chief Executive Brady Dougan said in a joint letter to shareholders. First-quarter ROE was 0.5 percent.
Stripping out the debt loss, Credit Suisse's first-quarter profit was 1.355 billion Swiss francs.
Banks can record gains if the value of their debt falls, since it becomes theoretically cheaper to repurchase it, and conversely book losses if the value of the debt rises, as rival UBS