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When a company reaches the large cap size, they have often already passed through multiple growth stages to become a finely tuned machine. When considering investments with companies of this stature, opportunities are found by focusing on profit. It also makes sense to focus on the large caps considered to the best in class among their peers - those that on average have scored on average a "Buy" or "Strong Buy" rating from industry analysts. Strong profit growth, matched with analyst confidence, are both positive indicators that not only is a company in healthy condition, but that the company is thriving and should continue to do so. Today we searched specifically for large cap oil and gas stocks that perform well in these areas, and came up with a short list of stocks to spark investment ideas.

EPS growth (earnings per share growth) illustrates the growth of earnings per share over time. EPS growth rates help investors identify stocks that are increasing or decreasing in profitability. This profitability metric is generally a key driver in the price of the stock as it directly correlates to the profitability of the company as a whole.

The Net Margin is a profitability metric that illustrates, by percentage, how much of every dollar earned gets turned into a bottom line profit. This is just one of many profitability metrics used by investors and analysts to better understand what the company is being left with at the end of the day. Generally, a firm that can expand its net profit margins over a period of time will see its stock price rise as well due to the trend of increasing profitability.

Net Margin = Net Income/Total Revenue

We first looked for large cap oil & gas stocks. From here, we then looked for companies that have strong profitability (1-year fiscal EPS Growth Rate>10%)(Net Margin [TTM] >10%). We next screened for businesses that analysts on average rate as "Buy" or "Strong Buy" (mean recommendation < 3).

Do you think these large-cap stocks will offer healthy returns? Use our screened list as a starting point for your own analysis.

1) EOG Resources, Inc. (NYSE:EOG)

:SectorBasic Materials
:IndustryIndependent & Oil Gas

EOG Resources, Inc. has an earnings per share growth rate of 549.16%, a net margin of 12.14%, and an analysts' rating of 1.90. The short interest was 1.21% as of 08/09/2012. EOG Resources, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the exploration, development, production, and marketing of crude oil and natural gas primarily in the United States, Canada, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the People's Republic of China, and the Argentine Republic. As of December 31, 2011, it had a total estimated net proved reserves of 2,054 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMBoe), of which 517 million barrels (MMBbl) were crude oil and condensate reserves, and 228 MMBbl were natural gas liquids reserves; and 7,851 billion cubic feet were natural gas reserves. The company held approximately 572,000 net acreage position in the oil window of the Eagle Ford Shale Play near San Antonio, Texas.

2) Canadian Natural Resources Limited (NYSE:CNQ)

:SectorBasic Materials
:IndustryIndependent & Oil Gas

Canadian Natural Resources Limited has an earnings per share growth rate of 55.90%, a net margin of 21.05%, and an analysts' rating of 1.90. The short interest was 0.66% as of 08/09/2012. Canadian Natural Resources Limited engages in the acquisition, exploration, development, production, marketing, and sale of crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs), and natural gas. Its products include natural gas, light and medium crude oil, primary heavy crude oil, bitumen, synthetic crude oil, and NGLs. The company operates primarily in North America; the United Kingdom portion of the North Sea; and Cte d'Ivoire, Gabon, and South Africa in offshore Africa.

3) Apache Corp. (NYSE:APA)

:SectorBasic Materials
:IndustryIndependent & Oil Gas

Apache Corp. has an earnings per share growth rate of 35.69%, a net margin of 19.52%, and an analysts' rating of 1.80. The short interest was 1.08% as of 08/09/2012. Apache Corporation, an independent energy company, explores for, develops, and produces natural gas, crude oil, and natural gas liquids. It has exploration and production interests in the Permian, Central, Gulf of Mexico Shelf, Gulf of Mexico Deepwater, and Gulf Coast Onshore in the United States; British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan provinces in Canada; Egypt; offshore Western Australia in the Carnarvon basin; offshore the United Kingdom in the North Sea; and in the Neuqun, Rio Negro, Tierra del Fuego, and Mendoza provinces of Argentina. The company sells its natural gas to local distribution companies, utilities, end-users, integrated oil companies, and supply aggregators and marketers. As of December 31, 2011, it had total estimated proved reserves of 1,370 million barrels of oil of crude oil, condensate, and NGLs.


:SectorBasic Materials
:IndustryIndependent & Oil Gas

CNOOC Ltd. has an earnings per share growth rate of 29.03%, a net margin of 29.16%, and an analysts' rating of 2.00. The short interest was 0.34% as of 08/09/2012. CNOOC Limited, through its subsidiaries, engages in the exploration, development, production, and sale of crude oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. Its oil and natural gas properties are located in offshore China, which include Bohai Bay, western South China Sea, eastern South China Sea, and East China Sea, as well as in Indonesia, Iraq, other regions in Asia, Australia, Nigeria, Uganda, the United States of America, Canada, and Argentina. As of December 31, 2011, the company had net proved reserves of approximately 3.19 billion barrels-of-oil equivalent.

5) Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE:CLR)

:SectorBasic Materials
:IndustryIndependent & Oil Gas

Continental Resources Inc. has an earnings per share growth rate of 142.92%, a net margin of 30.53%, and an analysts' rating of 2.30. The short interest was 8.80% as of 08/09/2012. Continental Resources, Inc. engages in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas primarily in the north, south, and east regions of the United States. The company primarily sells its oil and natural gas production to end users, as well as to midstream marketing companies or oil refining companies at the lease.

*Company profiles were sourced from Google Finance and Yahoo Finance. Financial data was sourced from Finviz.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.