Occidental Petroleum ( OXY), one of the largest oil and gas companies in the U.S., and with global exploration interests, gets some of the strongest ratings from Goldman, as well as a $105 price target, worth a 6% premium one month ago.

The company just reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.61 per share, easily besting the Thomson Reuters consensus of $1.55. Income from continuing operations was $1.2 billion, a 29% increase from a year earlier, as a result of higher oil prices and increased production volumes, which were offset by lower natural gas prices. Standard & Poor's said analysts' consensus estimates for fiscal 2011 is for 30% earnings growth to $7.33 per share.

Goldman says the company shows several positive trends, including return on capital, a strong production outlook, a healthy balance sheet and substantial cash flow.

And Occidental Petroleum's recent announcement that it is moving forward with a huge shale oil-development program in California should fuel long-term prospects once it gets into production.

But Standard & Poor's analysts have its shares rated "hold," noting that: "We believe its strengths are limited by participation in volatile, competitive and capital-intensive businesses, and (it has) a penchant for debt-financed acquisitions."

A summary of analysts' ratings by S&P resulted in seven "buy" ratings, 12 "buy/holds" and five "holds." Shares are down 1% this year.

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