Revenue rose by 20.6% since the same quarter a year ago, trailing the industry average growth rate of 33.5%. Earnings per share declined steeply in the most recent quarter compared with the same quarter last year. During the past fiscal year, Nicor did increas its bottom line by earning $2.98 vs. $2.86 in the prior year, but for the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 22.6% in earnings to $2.31 versus $2.98. Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$557.90 million.

Shares are down 19.8% over the past year, reflecting the market's overall decline (which was actually deeper) and the sharp decline in Nicor's EPS. We do not see anything in the company's numbers that may help reverse the decline experienced over the past 12 months. Despite its decline, the stock is still selling for more than most others in its industry.

We've upgraded Granite Construction ( GVA), which operates as a heavy civil contractor and a construction materials producer for public and private sector clients, from hold to buy, driven by its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, revenue growth, notable return on equity and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

EPS have improved by 6.3% in the most recent quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. During the past fiscal year, Granite increased its bottom line by earning $2.70 vs. $1.94 in the prior year, and this year, the market expects further improvement in earnings to $2.91. Revenue rose by 6.1% since the same quarter last year, trailing the industry's 41.7%. Return on equity has improved slightly, outperforming the construction and engineering industry and the overall market. Granite's low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.45 is still higher than the industry average, but the company's quick ratio of 1.15 is sturdy.

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