NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With the first-quarter earnings season behind us, data from Thomson Reuters shows corporate earnings grew at an anemic 2.3%, the lowest level in the last four quarters. 

Blame it on weak results from the energy sector, since -- excluding energy -- earnings would have been up a healthy 10.4%.

Some of the early positives in this quarter are that current earnings projections show continued strength in financials and healthcare, he noted, adding that fewer companies are giving negative guidance this quarter. There may also be less of a negative impact from the strong dollar.

Leading the way were strong results from the healthcare industry. Sri Raman, Senior Research Analyst at Thomson Reuters said healthcare really did stand out in the first quarter with earnings growth that topped 18%, making it the strongest-performing sector.

Two companies that had huge earnings growth were HCA Holdings (HCA), which saw its profit jump 61%, and Tenet Healthcare (THC), which had earnings growth of 116%, after reporting a loss a year ago.

The second-best performing sector was financials, which had earnings growth of 16%. But the number isn't as impressive as it looks, said Raman.

If you take out Bank of America (BAC) earnings, growth rates fall to 9.1%. Raman also said the growth rate benefited from easy comparisons to last year.

By far, the weakest sector was energy, with a 34.7% drop in earnings. Energy earnings will be weak for some time, Raman predicts, pointing to recent decisions by both Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) to cut capital expenditures by $3 billion.

That's going to trickle down to all the other energy companies, he added.

For the current quarter, analysts are currently projecting a 57% decline in energy earnings, Raman said.

 

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