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7 Chemical Stocks to Watch

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- These seven stocks from the diversified and specialty chemicals industry are estimated to generate significant returns to investors in the next 12 months, based on analysts' consensus estimates polled by Bloomberg. The stocks are estimated to gain in the range of 13% to 34% with an average buy recommendation of 62% and average hold rating of 31%.

7. Westlake Chemical (WLK - Get Report) is a vertically integrated manufacturer and marketer of basic chemicals, vinyls, polymers and fabricated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) building products. Broadly, the company operates in two segments: olefins and vinyls. Westlake has an annual aggregate production capacity of 11.8 billion pounds at 14 manufacturing sites in North America.

For the first quarter of 2011, the company recorded net income of $83.5 million, or $1.25 per diluted share. This compares to $17.6 million, or 27 cents per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. During the quarter, sales increased to $867.3 million from $778.3 million earlier. The company reported multi-fold increase in cash and cash equivalents to $654.5 million from $185.3 million in the first quarter of 2010.

The company recently paid a dividend of 6.35 cents per share to its stockholders. In its recent report of operating developments, Westlake disclosed that it has shut down its Springfield, KY PVC pipe production facility to reduce costs and optimize production due to excess capacity in the PVC pipe market. Almost $4 million of impairment and shutdown-related costs would impact the second quarter 2011 pre-tax earnings.

Of the 10 analysts covering the stock, 20% recommend a buy and 60% rate a hold. Data from Bloomberg has analysts forecasting the stock gaining 12.7% to $59.14 in the upcoming 12 months.
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