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Ecopetrol S.A. (EC): Today's Featured Basic Materials Winner

Ecopetrol S.A (EC) pushed the Basic Materials sector higher today making it today's featured basic materials winner. The sector as a whole closed the day down 0.1%. By the end of trading, Ecopetrol S.A rose 73 cents (1.2%) to $59.45 on light volume. Throughout the day, 469,939 shares of Ecopetrol S.A exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 695,200 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $58.11-$59.62 after having opened the day at $58.14 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $58.72. Other companies within the Basic Materials sector that increased today were: Houston American Energy Corporation (HUSA), up 37.9%, Yongye International (YONG), up 11.3%, Sonde Resources (SOQ), up 10.3%, and American Pacific Corporation (APFC), up 8.9%.

Ecopetrol S.A., an integrated oil company, engages in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas. As of December 31, 2011, its proved reserves of crude oil and natural gas totaled 1,856.7 million barrels of oil equivalent. Ecopetrol S.A has a market cap of $118.79 billion and is part of the energy industry. The company has a P/E ratio of 9.6, below the average energy industry P/E ratio of 11.3 and below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Shares are up 29.8% year to date as of the close of trading on Thursday. Currently there is one analyst that rates Ecopetrol S.A a buy, one analyst rates it a sell, and two rate it a hold.

TheStreet Ratings rates Ecopetrol S.A as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, solid stock price performance, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

On the negative front, ATP Oil & Gas (ATPG), down 72.5%, GeoMet (GMET), down 30.1%, Geokinetics (GOK), down 14.3%, and Delek US Holdings (DK), down 11.8%, were all laggards within the basic materials sector with Southwestern Energy Company (SWN) being today's basic materials sector laggard.

For investors not wanting singular stock exposure, ETFs may be of interest. Investors who are bullish on the basic materials sector could consider Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) while those bearish on the basic materials sector could consider ProShares Short Basic Materials Fd (SBM).

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