NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Although it hasn't been a great year for the energy sector, there are still some hidden gems to invest in; it could be a good time to invest in what has traditionally been one of the strongest growth sectors, especially after oil hit some ugly lows this year. Looking through TheStreet Quant Ratings, TheStreet's proprietary quant-based stock-rating tool, we picked the nine best energy companies, which are all rated B through A+.

The Street Quant Ratings rates every one of these stocks a buy. These stocks were chosen from 4,300 different types of equities we rate.

TheStreet Ratings projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 16.56% return in 2014, beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a buy yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Check out which stocks made the list. And when you're done, be sure to read about which safe, A+ rated stocks you should buy now. Year-to-date returns are based on October 13, 2015 prices as of 12:37pm.

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EQM

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9. EQT Midstream Partners, LP

(EQM) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $5.4 billion
Year-to-date return: -14.05%

EQT Midstream Partners, LP provides natural gas transmission, storage, and gathering services in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. It owns, operates, acquires, and develops midstream assets in the Appalachian Basin.

TheStreet Ratings team rates EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP (EQM) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, expanding profit margins and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 34.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 32.3%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP has improved earnings per share by 38.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP increased its bottom line by earning $3.47 versus $2.49 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.62 versus $3.47).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 54.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $58.97 million to $91.32 million.
  • The gross profit margin for EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP is currently very high, coming in at 78.59%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 63.14% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 70.56% to $124.44 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, EQT MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.64%.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: EQM
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SEP

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8. Spectra Energy Partners, LP

(SEP)


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $12.8 billion
Year-to-date return: -24.56%

Spectra Energy Partners, LP operates as an investment arm of Spectra Energy Corp.

TheStreet Ratings team rates SPECTRA ENERGY PARTNERS LP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate SPECTRA ENERGY PARTNERS LP (SEP) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, increase in net income, expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 34.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 13.6%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The gross profit margin for SPECTRA ENERGY PARTNERS LP is rather high; currently it is at 65.51%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 50.91% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 80.72% to $450.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, SPECTRA ENERGY PARTNERS LP has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.64%.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 42.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $215.00 million to $307.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.56, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Despite the fact that SEP's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.52, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: SEP
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MMP

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7. Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P.

(MMP) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $15.5 billion
Year-to-date return: -17.80%

Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. engages in the transportation, storage, and distribution of refined petroleum products and crude oil in the United States. It operates in three segments: Refined Products, Crude Oil, and Marine Storage.

TheStreet Ratings team rates MAGELLAN MIDSTREAM PRTNRS LP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate MAGELLAN MIDSTREAM PRTNRS LP (MMP) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins, good cash flow from operations and impressive record of earnings per share growth. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 21.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $146.26 million to $177.39 million.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, MAGELLAN MIDSTREAM PRTNRS LP's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for MAGELLAN MIDSTREAM PRTNRS LP is rather high; currently it is at 53.66%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 36.38% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $223.74 million or 7.93% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.64%.
  • Despite the weak revenue results, MMP has significantly outperformed against the industry average of 34.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 1.8%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: MMP
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ETE

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6. Energy Transfer Equity, L.P.

(ETE)


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $25.1 billion
Year-to-date return: -16.84%

Energy Transfer Equity, L.P., through its subsidiaries, provides diversified energy-related services in the Unites States.

TheStreet Ratings team rates ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP (ETE) a BUY. This is driven by multiple strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP increased its bottom line by earning $0.52 versus $0.15 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.03 versus $0.52).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 81.7% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $164.00 million to $298.00 million.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Despite the weak revenue results, ETE has outperformed against the industry average of 34.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 20.2%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • The gross profit margin for ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY LP is currently extremely low, coming in at 14.71%. Regardless of ETE's low profit margin, it has managed to increase from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 2.75% trails the industry average.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: ETE
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5. Marathon Petroleum Corporation

(MPC) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $26.8 billion
Year-to-date return: 9.26%

Marathon Petroleum Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in refining, marketing, retailing, and transporting petroleum products primarily in the United States. It operates through three segments: Refining & Marketing, Speedway, and Pipeline Transportation.

TheStreet Ratings team rates MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP (MPC) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, notable return on equity, attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The stock has not only risen over the past year, it has done so at a faster pace than the S&P 500, reflecting the earnings growth and other positive factors similar to those we have cited here. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. When compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $994.00 million or 13.21% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.64%.
  • MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP's earnings per share improvement from the most recent quarter was slightly positive. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP increased its bottom line by earning $4.42 versus $3.31 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($5.92 versus $4.42).
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: MPC
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VLO

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4. Valero Energy Corporation

(VLO) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $31.2 billion
Year-to-date return: 26.65%

Valero Energy Corporation operates as an independent petroleum refining and marketing company in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. It operates through two segments, Refining and Ethanol.

TheStreet Ratings team rates VALERO ENERGY CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate VALERO ENERGY CORP (VLO) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 118.03% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 40.28% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, VLO should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • VALERO ENERGY CORP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, VALERO ENERGY CORP increased its bottom line by earning $6.98 versus $4.97 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($8.54 versus $6.98).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 129.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $588.00 million to $1,351.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.34, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.17, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, VALERO ENERGY CORP's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: VLO
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3. HollyFrontier Corporation

(HFC) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, B+
Market Cap: $9.3 billion
Year-to-date return: 31.99%

HollyFrontier Corporation operates as an independent petroleum refiner in the United States. The company operates in two segments, Refining and HEP.

TheStreet Ratings team rates HOLLYFRONTIER CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate HOLLYFRONTIER CORP (HFC) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, increase in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, attractive valuation levels and impressive record of earnings per share growth. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Looking at where the stock is today compared to one year ago, we find that it is not only higher, but it has also clearly outperformed the rise in the S&P 500 over the same period. Although other factors naturally played a role, the company's strong earnings growth was key. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 104.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $176.43 million to $360.82 million.
  • HFC's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.17 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.02, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • HOLLYFRONTIER CORP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, HOLLYFRONTIER CORP reported lower earnings of $1.40 versus $3.62 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($5.07 versus $1.40).
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: HFC
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2. Phillips 66

(PSX) - Get Report


Rating: Buy, A
Market Cap: $44.9 billion
Year-to-date return: 16.33%

Phillips 66 operates as an energy manufacturing and logistics company. It operates through four segments: Midstream, Chemicals, Refining, and Marketing and Specialties (M&S).

TheStreet Ratings team rates PHILLIPS 66 as a Buy with a ratings score of A. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate PHILLIPS 66 (PSX) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, increase in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The stock has risen over the past year as investors have generally rewarded the company for its earnings growth and other positive factors like the ones we have cited in this report. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 17.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $863.00 million to $1,012.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.40, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.16, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 71.92% to $1,427.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, PHILLIPS 66 has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.64%.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: PSX
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TSO

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1. Tesoro Corporation

(TSO)


Rating: Buy, A
Market Cap: $12.5 billion
Year-to-date return: 36.07%

Tesoro Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in petroleum refining and marketing activities in the United States. It operates in three segments: Refining, Tesoro Logistics LP (TLLP), and Retail.

TheStreet Ratings team rates TESORO CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate TESORO CORP (TSO) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, notable return on equity and attractive valuation levels. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 171.76% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 61.62% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, TSO should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • TESORO CORP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, TESORO CORP increased its bottom line by earning $6.69 versus $2.83 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($13.05 versus $6.69).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 159.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $224.00 million to $582.00 million.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. When compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, TESORO CORP's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: TSO