DBS signages are seen as office workers work in Singapore Oct 8 2019. Picture taken Oct 8 2019.
DBS signages are seen as office workers work in Singapore Oct 8 2019. Picture taken Oct 8 2019. Reuters / FELINE LIM

Singapore's DBS Group reported a 7% rise in quarterly net profit that came in slightly above market estimates and gave a robust outlook as Southeast Asia's largest lender gains from sharply higher interest rates.

Singapore banks are also benefiting from a rebound in economic activity in the Asian financial hub after the government relaxed most of its COVID-19 restrictions in April.

DBS shares were down 1.7% in early trade on Thursday while the broader market was marginally higher.

DBS reported its net profit for April-June increased to S$1.82 billion ($1.30 billion) from S$1.7 billion a year earlier, compared with an average estimate of S$1.69 billion from five analysts compiled by Refinitiv.

"Net interest margin rose for the first time in three years and accelerated in the second quarter, while business momentum and asset quality were sustained," DBS CEO Piyush Gupta said in the results statement on Thursday.

"Our ongoing stress tests indicate that asset quality continues to be robust," he said.

The results from DBS rounded up a strong reporting season for Singapore banks after local peers OCBC beat estimates and United Overseas Bank flagged further improvement in net interest margins.

Singapore lenders were expected to report 10 basis points net interest margin expansion in April-June on a quarter-to-quarter basis, the highest over the last eight quarters, outperforming Asian peers, JPMorgan analysts said last month.

DBS' net interest margin increased to 1.58% in the quarter from 1.45% a year earlier and it said the key profitability gauge topped 1.8% in July.

The bank maintained its full-year loan growth forecast at mid-single digit percent.

Net fee income fell 12% in the second quarter due to lower contributions from wealth management and investment banking that more than offset increases in other fee activities.

($1 = 1.3801 Singapore dollars)