The bank recorded quarterly profits of 624 million euros ($865 million), down 64 percent from a year earlier when its earnings were exceptionally boosted by the sale of certain assets.
BBVA was hurt like all of Spain's banks by its exposure to the real estate sector which collapsed in 2008 after a 10-year boom.
It said Wednesday however that it could see "clear signs of improvement" in asset quality.
Its ratio of high-risk loans decreased for the first time since 2011, from 6.8 to 6.6 percent on a quarterly basis.
Two other major banks, Santander and Caixabank, have also reported a lowering of their ratio of high-risk loans -- mostly bad real estate assets left over from the crash.
This strengthening in the first quarter could indicate a possible turning point for Spain as it crawls out of recession.