Bank of America (BAC - Get Report)  said first-quarter profit rose by 6% as cost cuts helped to overcome a soft trading environment.

Net income climbed to $7.3 billion, the Charlotte-based bank said Tuesday in a press release. Earnings per share were 70 cents, beating analysts' average estimate of 66 cents.

Revenue totaled $23 billion, roughly flat with the year-earlier level, but the bank cut non-interest expenses by 4% to $13.2 billion. 

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Bank of America's executives said they expect net interest income -- what the bank collects on mortgages, credit cards and business loans minus what it pays out on deposits -- to grow by about 2% this year, thanks to an improvement in economic growth later this year. 

Meanwhile, expenses should remain roughly even with last year's levels, helping to boost profits, the executives said.   

"It was a challenging capital-markets environment but our team and platform are optimized," CEO Brian Moynihan said in the press release. 

Stock-trading revenue tumbled 22% to $1.2 billion, while fees and trading profits from bonds, commodities and foreign exchange declined by 8% to $2.4 billion. 

Yet revenue jumped 25% to $3.2 billion in Bank of America's mammoth consumer-banking business, which includes more than 4,000 branches. 

Average deposits increased by 5% to $1.4 trillion, while average loans in business segments climbed by 4% to $897 billion, according to the bank. 

Moynihan said on the conference call that even with an expected slowdown this year in the economy loan quality remains healthy.

Non-performing assets, including loans more than 90 days past due, averaged 1.23% of total loans, down from 1.25% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 1.49% a year earlier, according to Gerard Cassidy, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. 

The results were bolstered by "continued expense management and lower credit costs," Cassidy wrote in a note to clients.

The bank also benefited from an effective tax rate of 16.6%, Cassidy wrote. The analyst had estimated a rate of 18.5%, and the official U.S. corporate rate is 21%.  

Bank of America shares slid 2% to $29.25 in trading Tuesday. 

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