NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In the third quarter of 2015, the S&P 500 energy index declined sharply even when compared to a deep fall the general market.

The S&P 500 energy index was down 17% in the quarter, compared to the S&P 500, which declined nearly 7%. 

In the first half of the year, S&P 500 energy index also underperformed the market and was down 6%, compared to the market as a whole, which was up 1.2%. 

Since oil prices have been depressed for almost a year, energy stocks have taken a beating. Many of these companies spend a lot of money getting oil out of the ground, processing it, storing it and transporting it and so their fortunes improve when the price of oil (what consumers pay for their efforts) goes up.

Nonetheless, there were some relatively good buys -- but only two offering a positive return this quarter. TheStreet paired the 10 best performing energy sector stocks with TheStreet Ratings to determine whether they really are poor investments going forward.

Here are the 10 stocks in the energy sector which had the best third-quarter.

TheStreet
paired each of these tickers with TheStreet Ratings to let you know if you should buy, sell, or hold these best performing stocks. (Note: Because of TheStreet Ratings parameters, not all stocks on this list have a rating).


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 performers to date, counting down from 10 to one.

OXY Chart OXY data by YCharts
10. Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY - Get Report)

Rating: N/A
Market Cap: $50.5 billion
Year-to-date return: -14.94%


PXD Chart PXD data by YCharts
9. Pioneer Natural Resources Company (PXD - Get Report)

Rating: Hold, C-
Market Cap: $18.2 billion
Year-to-date return: -12.29%

Pioneer Natural Resources Company engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas in the United States. The company produces and sells oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs), and gas.

TheStreet Ratings team rates PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES CO as a Hold with a ratings score of C-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES CO (PXD) 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 largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, expanding profit margins and notable return on equity. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, unimpressive growth in net income and weak operating cash flow.

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

  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.32, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Despite the fact that PXD's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.61, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 34.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 27.2%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • 45.07% is the gross profit margin for PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES CO which we consider to be strong. Despite the high profit margin, it has decreased significantly from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, PXD's net profit margin of -26.20% significantly underperformed when compared to the industry average.
  • Despite any intermediate fluctuations, we have only bad news to report on this stock's performance over the last year: it has tumbled by 39.72%, worse than the S&P 500's performance. Consistent with the plunge in the stock price, the company's earnings per share are down 481.57% compared to the year-earlier quarter. Despite the heavy decline in its share price, this stock is still more expensive (when compared to its current earnings) than most other companies in its industry.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $328.00 million or 54.25% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: PXD


MRO Chart MRO data by YCharts
8. Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO - Get Report)
Rating: Sell, D+
Market Cap: $10.4 billion
Year-to-date return: -11.43%

Marathon Oil Corporation operates as an energy company. It operates in three segments: North America Exploration and Production, International Exploration and Production, and Oil Sands Mining.

TheStreet Ratings team rates MARATHON OIL CORP as a Sell with a ratings score of D+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate MARATHON OIL CORP (MRO) a SELL. This is driven by a few notable weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity, weak operating cash flow, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and feeble growth in its earnings per share.

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

  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 171.5% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $540.00 million to -$386.00 million.
  • Current return on equity is lower than its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, MARATHON OIL CORP's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $408.00 million or 62.50% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
  • Despite any intermediate fluctuations, we have only bad news to report on this stock's performance over the last year: it has tumbled by 60.07%, worse than the S&P 500's performance. Consistent with the plunge in the stock price, the company's earnings per share are down 207.54% compared to the year-earlier quarter. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor. However, in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.
  • MARATHON OIL CORP 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, MARATHON OIL CORP increased its bottom line by earning $1.41 versus $1.32 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 198.6% in earnings (-$1.39 versus $1.41).
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: MRO


XOM Chart XOM data by YCharts
7. Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM - Get Report)
Rating: Hold, C
Market Cap: $310 billion
Year-to-date return: -10.64%

Exxon Mobil Corporation explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada/South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia/Oceania.

TheStreet Ratings team rates EXXON MOBIL CORP as a Hold with a ratings score of C. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate EXXON MOBIL CORP (XOM) 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 reasonable valuation levels and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

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

  • XOM's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.20 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Despite the fact that XOM's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.52, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 34.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 33.2%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • The change in net income from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income has significantly decreased by 52.3% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $8,780.00 million to $4,190.00 million.
  • The share price of EXXON MOBIL CORP has not done very well: it is down 24.10% and has underperformed the S&P 500, in part reflecting the company's sharply declining earnings per share when compared to the year-earlier quarter. 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.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: XOM


NFX Chart NFX data by YCharts
6. Newfield Exploration Company (NFX)
Rating: Hold, C
Market Cap: $5.3 billion
Year-to-date return: -8.91%

Newfield Exploration Company, an independent energy company, engages in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids.

TheStreet Ratings team rates NEWFIELD EXPLORATION CO as a Hold with a ratings score of C. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate NEWFIELD EXPLORATION CO (NFX) 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 good cash flow from operations and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself.

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

  • Net operating cash flow has slightly increased to $372.00 million or 1.08% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.71%.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.75, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Despite the fact that NFX's debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.58, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • Despite the weak revenue results, NFX has outperformed against the industry average of 34.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 23.4%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 4409.1% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$22.00 million to -$992.00 million.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, NEWFIELD EXPLORATION CO's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: NFX


XEC Chart XEC data by YCharts
5. Cimarex Energy Co. (XEC - Get Report)
Rating: Hold, C
Market Cap: $9.7 billion
Year-to-date return: -7.1%

Cimarex Energy Co. operates as an independent oil and gas exploration and production company primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The company owns interests in 3,240 net productive oil and gas wells.

TheStreet Ratings team rates CIMAREX ENERGY CO as a Hold with a ratings score of C. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate CIMAREX ENERGY CO (XEC) 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. Among the primary strengths of the company is its solid financial position based on a variety of debt and liquidity measures that we have evaluated. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including feeble growth in the company's earnings per share, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

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

  • 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. To add to this, XEC has a quick ratio of 2.36, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 34.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 33.4%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • The share price of CIMAREX ENERGY CO has not done very well: it is down 20.64% and has underperformed the S&P 500, in part reflecting the company's sharply declining earnings per share when compared to the year-earlier quarter. 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.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, CIMAREX ENERGY CO's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has decreased to $257.37 million or 38.97% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: XEC


PSX Chart PSX data by YCharts
4. Phillips 66 (PSX - Get Report)
Rating: Buy, A
Market Cap: $41.3 billion
Year-to-date return: -4.62%

Phillips 66 operates as an energy manufacturing and logistics company. It operates through four segments: Midstream, Chemicals, Refining, and Marketing and Specialties (M&S).

TheStreet Ratings team rates PHILLIPS 66 as a Buy with a ratings score of A. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate PHILLIPS 66 (PSX) 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 notable return on equity. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

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 Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 17.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $863.00 million to $1,012.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.40, 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 1.16, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 71.92% to $1,427.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, PHILLIPS 66 has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -19.71%.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, PHILLIPS 66 has underperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has exceeded that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: PSX


VLO Chart VLO data by YCharts
3. Valero Energy Corporation (VLO - Get Report)
Rating: Buy, B
Market Cap: $29.9 billion
Year-to-date return: -3.99%

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.

TheStreet Ratings team rates VALERO ENERGY CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate VALERO ENERGY CORP (VLO) a BUY. This is driven by multiple 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, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. 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:

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 118.03% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 27.64% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, VLO should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • VALERO ENERGY 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 two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, VALERO ENERGY CORP increased its bottom line by earning $6.98 versus $4.97 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($8.44 versus $6.98).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 129.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $588.00 million to $1,351.00 million.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.34, 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 1.17, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, VALERO ENERGY CORP's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: VLO


TSO Chart TSO data by YCharts
2. Tesoro Corporation (TSO)
Rating: Buy, A+
Market Cap: $12 billion
Year-to-date return: 15.2%

Tesoro Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in petroleum refining and marketing activities in the United States. It operates in three segments: Refining, Tesoro Logistics LP (TLLP), and Retail.

TheStreet Ratings team rates TESORO CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate TESORO CORP (TSO) 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, compelling growth in net income, notable return on equity and attractive valuation levels. We feel its strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

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

  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 171.76% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 68.79% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, TSO should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • TESORO 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 two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, TESORO CORP increased its bottom line by earning $6.69 versus $2.83 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($12.88 versus $6.69).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 159.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $224.00 million to $582.00 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. When compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, TESORO CORP's return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: TSO


CAM Chart CAM data by YCharts
1. Cameron International Corporation (CAM)
Rating: Hold, C+
Market Cap: $11.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 17.09%

Cameron International Corporation provides flow equipment products, systems, and services worldwide.

TheStreet Ratings team rates CAMERON INTERNATIONAL CORP as a Hold with a ratings score of C+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

We rate CAMERON INTERNATIONAL CORP (CAM) 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. Among the primary strengths of the company is its solid financial position based on a variety of debt and liquidity measures that we have evaluated. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, disappointing return on equity and weak operating cash flow.

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

  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.64, 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 1.17, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 22.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 13.5%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • CAMERON INTERNATIONAL CORP's earnings per share declined by 26.0% in the most recent quarter compared to 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, CAMERON INTERNATIONAL CORP increased its bottom line by earning $3.85 versus $2.62 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 11.4% in earnings ($3.41 versus $3.85).
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $28.00 million or 86.88% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • Current return on equity is lower than its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. In comparison to the other companies in the Energy Equipment & Services industry and the overall market, CAMERON INTERNATIONAL CORP's return on equity is significantly below that of the industry average and is below that of the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: CAM