BNP Paribas has reported a 4.4% rise in quarterly profit, as a surge in fixed income and equities trading helped offset weaker retail banking in France and Italy where revenue fell.

The results came after French banks enjoyed a stock market rally after the first round of the French presidential election that bolstered investors' projections that Emmanuel Macron, seen as a business-friendly candidate, would eventually win. 

France's biggest bank said that net income rose to £1.89 billion in the first quarter from £1.81 billion a year earlier. This beat the average of four analyst estimates of £1.6 billion in a Reuters poll. 

BNP Paribas outperformed its European rivals in reporting a 33.1% rise in revenue in its global markets division that includes debt and equities trading.

This compared to a 4 % increase on average across peers, such as Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Barclays and UBS. 

BNP Paribas cited a "significant pick-up in client business compared to a very challenging market environment" a year ago, when a period of economic uncertainty and investor caution triggered volatility in financial markets. 

"The CIB (corporate and institutional bank) rebounded strongly from a low base in the first quarter of last year," BNP Paribas chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafé said.

US and European investment banks have benefited in the first quarter from a jump in markets-related revenue following US rate hikes, as well as from signs of an economic recovery in Europe and some progress in Britain's plans to leave the EU. 

Fixed income, currency and commodities trading revenue at BNP Paribas surged 32% to €1.17 billion, compared to a 24% rise in the business across the big five US banks. 

BNP Paribas also outpaced both European and US rivals in equities trading which rose 36% compared to a flat performance across the US banks on average, and compared to declines at Deutsche, Barclays and Credit Suisse. 

BNP Paribas' international financial services division - that includes retail banking outside European home markets, as well as personal finance, insurance and asset management - was the biggest contributor to the group's net profit this quarter with pre-tax income up 16% to €1.2 billion. 

France's biggest banks, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, are reporting results this week just a few days before the May 7 French presidential runoff vote, where centrist Macron is facing far-right rival Marine Le Pen who has vowed to take France out of the euro currency and the EU if elected. 

Opinion polls see Macron beating Le Pen in the final vote.