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Valero Energy ( VLO) pushed the Basic Materials sector higher today making it today's featured basic materials winner. The sector as a whole closed the day down 0.6%. By the end of trading, Valero Energy rose $1.30 (2.3%) to $57.97 on average volume. Throughout the day, 9,686,870 shares of Valero Energy exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 7,960,500 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $56.38-$58.33 after having opened the day at $57.03 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $56.67. Other companies within the Basic Materials sector that increased today were: Magellan Petroleum ( MPET), up 10.9%, Metabolix ( MBLX), up 8.5%, Polymet Mining ( PLM), up 7.0% and Quicksilver Resources ( KWK), up 6.8%.

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. Valero Energy has a market cap of $30.1 billion and is part of the energy industry. The company has a P/E ratio of 11.1, below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Shares are up 12.4% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday. Currently there are 9 analysts that rate Valero Energy a buy, no analysts rate it a sell, and 4 rate it a hold.

TheStreet Ratings rates Valero Energy as a buy. 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, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

On the negative front, Gulf Resources ( GURE), down 12.0%, China Natural Resources ( CHNR), down 8.6%, National Oilwell Varco ( NOV), down 7.4% and New Concept Energy ( GBR), down 7.1% , were all laggards within the basic materials sector with United States Steel ( X) 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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