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HSBC says results encouraging

LONDON, May 11 – HSBC has described its three-month results as "encouraging", although its bad debt provisions have risen.

The amount it set aside to cover bad debts in the first three months of 2009 was above the same period last year, but below the final quarter of 2008.

It added that its pre-tax profit was "ahead" of the same period last year, although it did not give figures.

The bank said its profits were boosted by record results from its global banking and markets business.

HSBC wrote down $24.9bn (£16.4bn) in 2008, but has not given a figure for the amount written down so far in 2009.

The bank said the latest write-downs were largely driven by "continuing weakness in the US", but added that the charges and provisions in the US had been "slightly lower than expected".

The bank is in the process of closing most of its retail lending operations in the US, having taken hefty losses from mortgages.

Unlike many of its peers, HSBC has not had to go to governments for extra cash.

It decided instead to ask existing shareholders for more money through a rights issue in April, which raised $17.8bn.

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HSBC, which is Europe\’s biggest bank, is the last of the major UK lenders to issue its update for the first quarter of 2009.

Barclays reported rising profits as record income offset a 79% increase in impairment charges.

Lloyds Banking Group warned that it expected to make a loss this year, even though its had delivered "good revenue growth in the first quarter of 2009".

RBS reported a pre-tax loss of £44m, compared with a profit of £479m for the same period a year earlier, and warned of two very tough years ahead.

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