Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX), the only two "big oil" companies whose shares are rated "buy" by TheStreet.com Ratings, may hand investors the best returns as the price of crude plummets. Marathon Oil ( MRO), Sunoco ( SUM), Hess ( HES), BP ( BP), Royal Dutch Shell ( RDSA) and Petrobras ( PBR) are tagged with "hold" recommendations, held back by the volatility of their stock prices and depressed profits. The price of crude oil crashed from almost $150 a barrel in July 2008 to the $30s in late February. Crude oil in New York declined as much as 5% today, the most in two weeks, hurt by the dollar's advance and a drop in stock markets in the U.S. and Europe. Still, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has agreed to production cuts of 4.2 million barrels a day since September, propping up prices. OPEC didn't further curb output at a March 15 meeting. The group will convene again May 28. The consensus among analysts is that Exxon Mobil's earnings per share will be cut in half this year, tumbling from $8.69 in fiscal 2008 to $4.35. The forecasts are worse for Chevron, which analysts estimate will take a 58% hit, dropping from $11.67 to $4.85. But as the economy starts to expand, expected by some analysts to occur close to the end of the year, Exxon Mobil's per-share net is expected to recover 44% next year to $4.25 while Chevron's is forecasted to vault 56% to $7.55. Although Exxon Mobil's "reward," "risk" and "overall" marks are one to two notches higher than those earned by its smaller competitor, a compelling case can be made that Chevron makes a better choice as a "value" investment.