Pre-tax profits for the first quarter fell to 6.78 billion US dollars (£4 billion) compared to the same period last year. In the global banking and markets division, they were down by 20% to 2.87 billion US dollars (£1.69 billion).
It comes a day after rival Barclays said quarterly profits at its investment arm had fallen by half.
HSBC, which is listed in London but makes more than half its profits in Asia, said "market conditions were challenging" in the division.
The bank added: "We continued to experience muted customer activity in April."
Chief executive Stuart Gulliver said: "In the first quarter we maintained control of costs and further demonstrated our capital resilience.
"Whilst revenue was lower than the previous year's first quarter, which benefited from a number of specific items, we have seen progress in revenue over the trailing quarters."