Europe's biggest bank HSBC Holdings said its underlying third quarter profits were significantly ahead of a year ago and said losses on U.S. consumer loans had shown their first fall in three years.

HSBC <0005.HK> said loan impairment allowances for its U.S. consumer finance business declined in the third quarter, representing the first quarterly fall since the start of 2006 and their lowest level for over a year.

HSBC said its investment bank arm had maintained its record performance so far this year.

HSBC shares were up 1.8 percent at 704.9 pence at 0830 GMT (3:30 a.m. EST).

I believe the biggest jolt has now passed through the global economy, said HSBC Chief Executive Michael Geoghegan. The world will likely see a two-speed recovery, he said, adding that emerging markets are likely to drive the recovery.

The bank said on a reported basis, including losses on the fair value of its own debt, Q3 profits were lower than a year ago.

(Reporting by Steve Slater and Clara Ferreira-Marques)