Standard Chartered said it has had an excellent start to the year as key Asian markets lifted income by over 10 percent, although costs rose at a faster rate after a hiring spree last year.

The Asia-focused bank <2888.HK> said on Wednesday it had cut its number of staff to keep expenses under control, after adding 7,000 people last year.

Costs rose more than income compared with a year ago, but this so-called negative jaws was significantly narrower than last year, when costs rose 13 percent, outpacing a 6 percent income rise.

Standard Chartered is under pressure to show it has costs under control, and said it had a firm grip on expenses.

It has been in an increasingly intense battle for talent, especially in hot markets such as India and China. It said in March it would add about 1,000 staff this year to its roughly 85,000 employees.

The London-based bank, which generates more than four fifths of its profit in Asia and other emerging markets, said income in its consumer banking division was up in the low double digits and wholesale banking was up by at least 10 percent.

It is forecast to make a profit of $7 billion this year, up 14 percent from $6.1 billion last year, according to the average of 15 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. That would mark a ninth successive year of record profit.

The bank does not issue full quarter earnings. The trading statement said income was broadly spread, with its wealth management business in Hong Kong and Singapore faring particularly well.

(Reporting by Kelvin Soh in Hong Kong and Steve Slater in London; Editing by Chris Lewis and Ken Wills)