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The 2014 All-America Research Team: Chemicals, No. 1: Jeffrey Zekauskas

< The 2014 All-America Research TeamJeffrey ZekauskasJ.P. MorganFirst-Place Appearances: 4

Total Appearances: 13

Analyst Debut: 2001

Jeffrey Zekauskas “can focus on a single factor that the rest of the Street misses and shed light on a company’s future prospects,” asserts one fund manager. That discernment helps propel the 60-year-old J.P. Morgan researcher to his fourth consecutive first-place finish on this roster. Zekauskas monitors 39 chemicals names and has long been bullish on the prospects for LyondellBasell Industries, a Netherlands-headquartered producer of specialty plastics for use across a range of industries, including auto parts, clean fuels, construction, packaging and textiles. He highlighted that stance in July 2013, citing low prices for such raw materials as butane, ethane and propane, and by the middle of last month, the New York Stock Exchange–listed stock had catapulted 71.9 percent, to $111.86, outstripping U.S. chemicals shares by 47.8 percentage points. Also last July, when shares of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan plunged 16.6 percent in a single day on news that Russian competitor Uralkali intended to increase potash output, Zekauskas reiterated his overweight rating on the Canadian producer. Downward pressure on pricing would be temporary, he advised, and the stock would rebound. The researcher was right. In July 2014, with the NYSE-traded shares at $36.93, he downgraded them to neutral, capturing a 21.7 percent gain over a period when the broad U.S. market was up 16.6 percent. Through mid-September, PotashCorp tumbled to $34.55, while the broad market inched up 1 percent. “Jeff thinks more like a buy-sider than a sell-sider,” observes another backer.


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