What the heck is this? Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) reported sales growth of under 5%, and earnings growth of about 9%. That's OK performance . if you're a bank. Alas, Johnson & Johnson is not a bank, and this sort of performance means that we'll continue to be treated to the sighs <sic> and sounds of analysts publicly worrying about whether or not J&J has the muscle to grow the top line faster than world GDP growth.

Even though folks didn't really expect a lot from JNJ this quarter, many still will go away grumbling. Operating income fell 1%, suggesting that that quality of the net earnings growth wasn't up to par. What's more, neither the DePuy orthopedics business nor the Cyper drug-coated stent business performed all that well this time around -- lending more ammunition to those who think that big rivals like Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), and Stryker (NYSE:SYK) will continue to pick away at the company's lucrative franchises.

The pharmaceutical side was also no great help, what with sales up little more than 3%. While I am beginning to think that JNJ's drug pipeline may be underestimated, what with some high-potential candidates in HIV/AIDS, arthritis, and the recent Vertex (NASDAQ:VRTX) deal for hepatitis C, it will be a little while yet before any of that growth hits the numbers.

Last and not least, there's still the lingering concern about the company overpaying for Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) consumer health business. I still believe that though the company paid a lot for it, JNJ might be able to do more with it than people realize -- Pfizer's business has a larger foreign component and there could be real growth potential from over-the-counter products in emerging markets in the years to come. Further, getting so much bigger will give JNJ more pull with retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and may ultimately make the business more profitable than some think.

To be sure, this is an important point in JNJ's corporate life cycle. Does it settle into growing more or less in step with the world economy, or does it sniff out new avenues of growth that will let it achieve the sort of performance that long-term investors have come to expect? We won't know until we know, but for now I'm going to vote "yes" and hang on to my shares.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of Johnson & Johnson, but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares). The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.