HSBC plc (HSBC) shares rose to a one-month high Thursday after Europe's biggest lender beat analysts' estimates for first quarter earnings and boosted the strength of its balance sheet.

Shares in the bank were marked 3.55% higher at 668.1 pence each by 13:30 BST, far outpacing the 1.2% gain for the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index and topping the FTSE 100 leaderboard in London.

HSBC said pre-tax profits for the first three months of the year came in at $4.96 billion, a 19% decline from the year-ago period but topping a bank-provided consensus of $4.3 billion. The bank also said its benchmark tier 1 ratio, a measure of financial strength, rose by 70 basis points from the end of last year to 14.3% -- one of the strongest in Europe -- following the April completion of a $ billion share buyback.

The stock's gains were limited, however, by comments from CFO Iain McKay told CNBC Europe television that the bank was not looking at returning cash to shareholders at the present time and would look to hold its 2017 dividend unchanged at around $0.51 per share.