Agrium Inc (AGU): Today's Featured Basic Materials Winner

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

Agrium ( AGU) pushed the Basic Materials sector higher today making it today's featured basic materials winner. The sector as a whole was unchanged today. By the end of trading, Agrium rose $1.75 (2.0%) to $90.53 on average volume. Throughout the day, 1,069,963 shares of Agrium exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 741,600 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $88.56-$91.51 after having opened the day at $88.80 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $88.78. Other companies within the Basic Materials sector that increased today were: Ikonics Corporation ( IKNX), up 51.6%, Solitario Exploration & Royalty ( XPL), up 22.8%, GeoPark ( GPRK), up 10.6% and James River Coal Company ( JRCC), up 8.4%.

In addition to supplying wholesalers, Agrium operates more than 200 fertilizer retail outlets in the US in 22 states and nearly 40 retail farm centers in South America. Agrium has a market cap of $12.7 billion and is part of the chemicals industry. Shares are down 3.0% year to date as of the close of trading on Thursday. Currently there are 10 analysts that rate Agrium a buy, 2 analysts rate it a sell, and 7 rate it a hold.

TheStreet Ratings rates Agrium as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, reasonable valuation levels, good cash flow from operations 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.

On the negative front, China Gengsheng Minerals ( CHGS), down 17.4%, Endeavour International ( END), down 12.4%, Synthesis Energy Sys ( SYMX), down 8.4% and Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation ( COG), down 8.2% , were all laggards within the basic materials sector with Pioneer Natural Resources Company ( PXD) 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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