4 Stocks That Are Hot This Week

Includes: ACE, ALB, PPO, XOM
by: Holly Thompson

In this market of big plays with little ground gained, we are always looking for solid companies with an edge to bring growth to our portfolios. This week, we have our eye on four such companies that look to prove their games and launch us into an improved position in 2012.

Polypore International Inc. (NYSE:PPO) is a leading worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of highly specialized polymer-based membranes used in separation and filtration processes. The products and technologies target specialized applications and markets that require the removal or separation of various materials from liquids, with such materials ranging in size from microscopic to those visible to the human eye.

Polypore’s financial results for the 3rd quarter include sales of $190.1 million, an increase of 25% compared with the prior-year period. Adjusted net income and adjusted EPS were $25.4 million and $.54 per diluted share, compared with $13.2 million and $.28 per diluted share in the prior-year period.

Robert B.Toth, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: "We are on track with our substantial capacity investments and the long-term demand drivers remain strong across our businesses. In our lithium separator business, where demand continues to accelerate, we are focused on increasing capacity as rapidly as possible."

Polypore upgraded to Buy from Hold at BB&T with a median price target of $72.00. Next earnings release: Feb 22 after market close.

Albemarle Corp. (NYSE:ALB) has a history that extends back to 1887. Today, Albemarle is a leading global producer of polymer solutions, fine chemistry and catalysts. The products are used as additives or intermediates for a wide range of products manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, cleaning product manufacturers, water treatment companies, agricultural companies, electronics goods manufacturers, refineries and paper and photographic companies.

Albemarle reported its 3rd consecutive record quarter with earnings of $1.28 per share, up 25% over 3rd quarter 2010 results and net sales of $723 million for the quarter, up 24% from 3rd quarter 2010.

Commenting on results, Luke Kissam, President and CEO, stated, "We're pleased to announce record earnings for the third consecutive quarter. Catalysts' record performance and the continued strength of the Fine Chemistry business more than offset the expected volume softness seen in Polymer Solutions this quarter versus the first half of the year. These earnings are a testament to our competitive cost position, execution of our pricing strategies and the innovation of our people."

Albermarle initiated with a Buy December 6, at Sterne Agee with a median target of $66.00. Next earnings release: Jan 24 after market close.

Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) engages in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas, and manufacture of petroleum products, as well as transportation and sale of crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. The company manufactures and markets commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and other specialty products. As of December 31, 2010, it operated 35,691 gross and 30,494 net operated wells. The company has operations in the United States, Canada/South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia/Oceania.

ExxonMobil’s results for the third quarter of 2011 include earnings of $10.3 billion, up 41% from the third quarter of 2010, reflecting higher crude oil and natural gas realizations and improved refining margins. Earnings per share were $2.13, an increase of 48% from the third quarter of 2010.

Exxon Mobil Chief Executive, Rex Tillerson, noted that demand for energy is expected to jump some 30% over the next two decades as the global economy doubles in size. Most of that energy will continue to come from fossil fuels, forecasting agencies predict and they expect tighter supplies and higher prices. Next earnings release: Jan 30 before market open.

ACE Limited (NYSE:ACE) provides a range of insurance and reinsurance products to worldwide. The company operates in four segments: Insurance North American, Insurance Overseas General, Global Reinsurance and Life.

ACE Limited posted a strong 3rd quarter with operating income of $2.22 per share, surpassing the consensus estimate as well as year-ago results. Better-than-expected results stemmed from higher premiums and investment income. The quarter experienced solid current accident year underwriting results benefiting from both underwriting discipline and risk management. Acquisitions also contributed to the better results.

In its 3rd-quarter earnings conference call, ACE Limited announced that it expects to deliver earnings in the band of $6.00 - $6.20 per share in 2011. Acquisitions have played an important role in posting solid results by the company. We expect the Penn Millers buy also to support ACE Limited to achieve its guided numbers.

ACE upgraded from Neutral to a Buy December 6, at Ticonderoga with a median target of $79.50. Next earnings release: Jan 31 after market close.

Disclosure: I am long PPO.