Royal Bank of Canada says its profits increased 23 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 from earnings a year ago.

Canada's largest bank reported quarterly net income of $1.8 billion or $1.24 per share, up from $1.5 billion or $1 per share a year ago. Cash earnings per share were $1.26, above analyst expectations of $1.01, according to Thomson Reuters.

RBC says it had an exceptional start to the year, growing its earnings across all segments.

"We grew our earnings across our segments demonstrating the strength and diversification of our businesses," CEO Gord Nixon said.

Nixon said the bank plans to extend leadership positions and build on global platforms in 2011 by focusing on clients' need and capitalizing on the global economic recovery.

The bank set aside $334 million in loan-loss provisions, down $159 million or 32 per cent from where they were a year ago. The bank also saw lower write-offs in its Canadian credit card portfolio during the quarter.

But Barclays Capital analyst John Aiken noted that the bank did not increase its dividend in the quarter, despite a core payout ratio approaching 40 per cent.

"While we would expect the results to be received favourably by the markets, we would be surprised to see the strength implied by its headline earnings," he said.