Oil refiner Valero Energy ( VLO) posted an 18% jump in first-quarter earnings, beating analysts' expectations.

The company said profit reached $309 million, or 59 cents a share, up from $261 million, or 48 cents, in the year-ago period. Analysts forecast earnings of 50 cents a share.

Revenue dropped 51% to $13.82 billion as the demand for energy nosedived during the first three months of the year.

Valero said the decrease in demand was offset by improved refining margins and lower oil prices.

According to an article two weeks ago on BullishBankers.com, refiners are the most neglected subsector on the S&P 500. While investors are typically advised to avoid refiners because their business model is difficult to understand, the analysis cites the potential, in this market, to score quick profits off a properly timed play on refiners.

Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More from Earnings

Tuesday Turnaround: Amazon's Closing In on Apple

Tuesday Turnaround: Amazon's Closing In on Apple

Jim Cramer on Tuesday's Market Gains: Let's Not Get Carried Away

Jim Cramer on Tuesday's Market Gains: Let's Not Get Carried Away

Jim Cramer Breaks Down the Volatility in Home Depot Shares

Jim Cramer Breaks Down the Volatility in Home Depot Shares

Top Analysts Say Put These 3 Killer Tech Stocks on Your Radar

Top Analysts Say Put These 3 Killer Tech Stocks on Your Radar

Market Madness: Are You Worried About a Bear Market or Retail Earnings?

Market Madness: Are You Worried About a Bear Market or Retail Earnings?