Swedbank reported on Thursday a bigger rise than expected in first-quarter net profit on the back of higher income, lower expenses and lower credit impairments, and said the economy had proved surprisingly resilient in the quarter.

Sweden's biggest mortgage lender said net profit rose to 8.43 billion crowns ($776 mln) from a year-ago 7.56 billion. Analysts polled by LSEG had on average expected a profit of 8.22 billion crowns.

"We yet again deliver a strong and resilient result and we see our profits rise," CEO Jens Henriksson told reporters.

"Despite an uncertain world with war in Europe, turmoil in the Middle East and climate change, I feel somewhat confident for the economic development," he said.

Swedish banks have seen income boosted by higher interest rates but have also faced headwinds from a slumping economy and a real estate crisis that has had investors doubting their balance sheets.

Swedbank, a rival to Handelsbanken, Nordea and SEB said its interest income - which includes revenue from mortgages - rose to 12.6 billion crowns from 11.9 billion, below a 12.9 billion seen by analysts.

"Our financing costs have risen," Henriksson said, adding that customers had moved their savings to accounts and products with higher interest rates and that the central bank's reduced asset purchases had led to higher lending costs.

Credit impairments shrank to 144 million crowns from 777 million.

Swedbank said it had introduced a temporary hiring freeze with the exception of business-critical positions, after the number of employees increased more than forecast due to lower staff turnover. ($1 = 10.8681 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Ahlander, editing by Anna Ringstrom and Essi Lehto)