NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- So far in 2015, the Materials sector has been lagging behind the market. On a year to date basis, through the first half of the year, the S&P materials sector index fell by 0.58% compared to a slight 0.2% increase for the S&P 500 as a whole. Within the materials sector, which stocks performed best?

TheStreet paired the 10 best performing materials sector stocks with TheStreet Ratings to determine whether they really are poor investments going forward.

TheStreet Ratings, TheStreet's proprietary ratings tool, projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Based on 32 major data points, TheStreet Ratings uses a quantitative approach to rating over 4,300 stocks to predict return potential for the next year. The model is both objective, using elements such as volatility of past operating revenues, financial strength, and company cash flows, and subjective, including expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and forecasted company earnings.

Buying an S&P 500 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 16.56% return in 2014 beating the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 304 basis points. Buying a Russell 2000 stock that TheStreet Ratings rated a "buy" yielded a 9.5% return in 2014, beating the Russell 2000 index, including dividends reinvested, by 460 basis points last year.

Check out which stocks were among the best materials performers in the S&P 500 for the quarter. And when you're done with that be sure to find out which materials companies had the worst performance in the S&P 500 for the first quarter.

 

EMN ChartEMN data by YCharts
10. Eastman Chemical Company (EMN - Get Report)

Market Cap: $12.2 billion
Year-to-date return: 7.9%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B+

Eastman Chemical Company, a specialty chemical company, manufactures and sells materials, chemicals, and fibers in the United States and internationally.

"We rate EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO (EMN) a BUY. This is driven by some important positives, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 13.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 6.0%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 403.33% to $91.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 72.17%.
  • EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO's earnings per share declined by 25.0% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO reported lower earnings of $4.94 versus $7.45 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($7.19 versus $4.94).
  • The gross profit margin for EASTMAN CHEMICAL CO is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 33.07%. Regardless of EMN's low profit margin, it has managed to increase from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 6.99% trails the industry average.

 

ECL ChartECL data by YCharts
9. Ecolab Inc. (ECL - Get Report)

Market Cap: $33.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 8.2%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A-

Ecolab Inc. provides water, hygiene, and energy technologies and services for customers worldwide. The company operates in four segments: Global Industrial, Global Institutional, Global Energy, and Other.

"We rate ECOLAB INC (ECL) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, expanding profit margins, solid stock price performance and notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • ECOLAB INC has improved earnings per share by 24.2% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, ECOLAB INC increased its bottom line by earning $3.93 versus $3.15 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.52 versus $3.93).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Chemicals industry. The net income increased by 22.2% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $191.00 million to $233.40 million.
  • The gross profit margin for ECOLAB INC is rather high; currently it is at 53.07%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 7.07% trails the industry average.
  • The stock has risen over the past year as investors have generally rewarded the company for its earnings growth and other positive factors like the ones we have cited in this report. Looking ahead, the stock's rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that the other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Chemicals industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, ECOLAB INC has underperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has exceeded that of the S&P 500.

 

DOW ChartDOW data by YCharts
8. Dow Chemical Company (DOW)

Market Cap: $59 billion
Year-to-date return: 12.2%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A-

The Dow Chemical Company manufactures and supplies products that are used primarily as raw materials in the manufacture of customer products and services worldwide.

"We rate DOW CHEMICAL (DOW) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Chemicals industry. The net income increased by 40.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $1,049.00 million to $1,478.00 million.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.89, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.21, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 118.78% to $1,258.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 72.17%.
  • DOW CHEMICAL has improved earnings per share by 49.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, DOW CHEMICAL reported lower earnings of $2.86 versus $3.61 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.00 versus $2.86).

 

AVY ChartAVY data by YCharts
7. Avery Dennison Corporation (AVY - Get Report)

Market Cap: $5.5 billion
Year-to-date return: 17.5%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A

Avery Dennison Corporation produces and sells pressure-sensitive materials worldwide. It operates through Pressure-Sensitive Materials, Retail Branding and Information Solutions, and Vancive Medical Technologies segments.

"We rate AVERY DENNISON CORP (AVY) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income, notable return on equity and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The stock has not only risen over the past year, it has done so at a faster pace than the S&P 500, reflecting the earnings growth and other positive factors similar to those we have cited here. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • AVERY DENNISON CORP has improved earnings per share by 5.5% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, AVERY DENNISON CORP increased its bottom line by earning $2.62 versus $2.43 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.36 versus $2.62).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Containers & Packaging industry average. The net income increased by 0.6% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $71.20 million to $71.60 million.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. When compared to other companies in the Containers & Packaging industry and the overall market, AVERY DENNISON CORP's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 107.68% to $8.30 million when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow, AVERY DENNISON CORP's average is still marginally south of the industry average growth rate of 109.85%.

 

CF ChartCF data by YCharts
6. CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (CF - Get Report)

Market Cap: $3 billion
Year-to-date return: 17.9%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B

CF Industries Holdings, Inc. manufactures and distributes nitrogen fertilizers and other nitrogen products worldwide. The company's principal nitrogen fertilizer products include ammonia, granular urea, and urea ammonium nitrate solution.

"We rate CF INDUSTRIES HOLDINGS INC (CF) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, expanding profit margins and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, CF's share price has jumped by 32.28%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, CF should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • The gross profit margin for CF INDUSTRIES HOLDINGS INC is rather high; currently it is at 55.70%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 24.18% significantly outperformed against the industry average.
  • Even though the current debt-to-equity ratio is 1.13, it is still below the industry average, suggesting that this level of debt is acceptable within the Chemicals industry. Despite the fact that CF's debt-to-equity ratio is mixed in its results, the company's quick ratio of 1.53 is high and demonstrates strong liquidity.
  • CF, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 13.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 15.8%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • CF INDUSTRIES HOLDINGS INC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. We feel it is likely to report a decline in earnings in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, CF INDUSTRIES HOLDINGS INC increased its bottom line by earning $5.29 versus $4.93 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 15.7% in earnings ($4.46 versus $5.29).

 

SEE ChartSEE data by YCharts
5. Sealed Air Corporation (SEE - Get Report)

Market Cap: $10.8 billion
Year-to-date return: 22%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B

Sealed Air Corporation provides food safety and security, facility hygiene, and product protection solutions worldwide.

"We rate SEALED AIR CORP (SEE) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company is trading at a premium valuation based on our review of its current price compared to such things as earnings and book value."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • SEALED AIR CORP has improved earnings per share by 39.4% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, SEALED AIR CORP increased its bottom line by earning $1.20 versus $0.44 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.18 versus $1.20).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Containers & Packaging industry. The net income increased by 37.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $70.90 million to $97.20 million.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. When compared to other companies in the Containers & Packaging industry and the overall market, SEALED AIR CORP's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • 39.09% is the gross profit margin for SEALED AIR CORP which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 5.56% is above that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 134.20% to $319.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 109.85%.

 

NEM ChartNEM data by YCharts
4. Newmont Mining Corporation (NEM - Get Report)

Market Cap: $12.4 billion
Year-to-date return: 23.6%
TheStreet Ratings: Hold, C

Newmont Mining Corporation operates in the mining industry. It primarily acquires, develops, explores for, and produces gold, copper, and silver deposits. The company's operations and/or assets are located in the United States, Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Ghana, and New Zealand.

"We rate NEWMONT MINING CORP (NEM) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed ? some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 17.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • NEWMONT MINING CORP reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. We feel that this trend should continue. This trend suggests that the performance of the business is improving. During the past fiscal year, NEWMONT MINING CORP turned its bottom line around by earning $1.10 versus -$5.21 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.28 versus $1.10).
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Metals & Mining industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, NEWMONT MINING CORP has outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • NEM's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.62 is somewhat low overall, but it is high when compared to the industry average, implying that the management of the debt levels should be evaluated further. Regardless of the somewhat mixed results with the debt-to-equity ratio, the company's quick ratio of 1.11 is sturdy.
  • In its most recent trading session, NEM has closed at a price level that was not very different from its closing price of one year earlier. This is probably due to its weak earnings growth as well as other mixed factors. The fact that the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings is not reason enough to justify a buy rating at this time.

 

VMC ChartVMC data by YCharts
3. Vulcan Materials Company (VMC - Get Report)

Market Cap: $11.1 billion
Year-to-date return: 27.7%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B

Vulcan Materials Company produces and sells construction aggregates, asphalt mix, and ready-mixed concrete primarily in the United States. It operates through four segments: Aggregates, Asphalt Mix, Concrete, and Calcium.

"We rate VULCAN MATERIALS CO (VMC) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, good cash flow from operations and solid stock price performance. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 21.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 9.9%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.55, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.08, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 485.23% to $19.15 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, VULCAN MATERIALS CO has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 140.06%.
  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, VMC's share price has jumped by 36.34%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. We feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.
  • VULCAN MATERIALS CO has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, VULCAN MATERIALS CO increased its bottom line by earning $1.56 versus $0.16 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.10 versus $1.56).

 

MLM ChartMLM data by YCharts
2. Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (MLM - Get Report)

Market Cap: $9.6 billion
Year-to-date return: 28.3%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, B+

Martin Marietta Materials, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, supplies aggregates products and heavy building materials for the construction industry in the United States and internationally.

"We rate MARTIN MARIETTA MATERIALS (MLM) a BUY. This is driven by a number of strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, solid stock price performance, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat disappointing return on equity."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • MLM's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 21.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 61.3%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.36, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.27, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, reflecting both the market's overall trend during that period and the fact that the company's earnings growth has been robust. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 431.23% to $35.13 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, MARTIN MARIETTA MATERIALS has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of 140.06%.
  • MARTIN MARIETTA MATERIALS reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, MARTIN MARIETTA MATERIALS reported lower earnings of $2.53 versus $2.61 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($5.32 versus $2.53).

 

LYB ChartLYB data by YCharts
1. LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (LYB - Get Report)

Market Cap: $48.8 billion
Year-to-date return: 30.4%
TheStreet Ratings: Buy, A-

LyondellBasell Industries N.V. operates as a manufacturer of chemicals and polymers, refiner of crude oil, producer of gasoline blending components, and developer and licensor of technologies for production of polymers.

"We rate LYONDELLBASELL INDUSTRIES NV (LYB) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, increase in net income, notable return on equity and good cash flow from operations. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, reflecting both the market's overall trend during that period and the fact that the company's earnings growth has been robust. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • LYONDELLBASELL INDUSTRIES NV has improved earnings per share by 40.7% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, LYONDELLBASELL INDUSTRIES NV increased its bottom line by earning $7.97 versus $6.78 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($9.53 versus $7.97).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Chemicals industry. The net income increased by 23.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $945.00 million to $1,166.00 million.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Chemicals industry and the overall market, LYONDELLBASELL INDUSTRIES NV's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 83.27% to $1,468.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 72.17%.