HSBC posted a 14 percent drop in its first-quarter profit, as the lender's investment banking unit saw trading income tumble in the grim global market environment early in the year, but the profit fall was smaller than expected.

HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, reported on Tuesday a pretax profit of $6.1 billion (4 billion pounds) for the first three months of this year, down from $7.1 billion a year ago, but above the average forecast of $4.3 billion from analysts polled by the company.

Underlying revenues fell 4 percent year on year to $13.9 billion.