Hong Kong — HSBC profits climbed in 2018 despite a bruising final quarter as worries over the global economy and the US-China trade war began to bite, the banking giant said on Tuesday. The London-headquartered behemoth told investors it was still aiming to meet targets despite the looming twin storms of Brexit and the long-running trade impasse between Washington and Beijing. But analysts warned it remained vulnerable to any fallout from either issue becoming a full-blown crisis in 2019. Overall, 2018 saw strong growth for HSBC with net profit ballooning 30% to $12.6bn. Profit before tax climbed 16% to $19.9bn.

The results capped the first full year at the helm for CEO John Flint, who has vowed growth while keeping a lid on costs. But the yearly growth figures were dampened by a tough final quarter when the markets — especially those in Hong Kong and China — went into meltdown over global trade fears. Adjusted pre-tax profit fell 1% to $3.4bn in October-December, missing the...

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