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Basic Materials: Chemicals - 2008

Donald Carson of Merrill Lynch captures the top spot for a sixth straight year, owing largely to his “incredibly in-depth knowledge of the agriculture space,” as one ­money manager puts it.

Donald Carson

Donald Carson

Donald Carson

Merrill Lynch

SECOND TEAM

Robert Koort Goldman Sachs

THIRD TEAM

P.J. Juvekar ­ Citi

RUNNERS-UP

Kevin McCarthy BofA ; Sergey Vasnetsov Barclays ; Jeffrey Zekauskas ­ JPMorgan

Donald Carson of Merrill Lynch captures the top spot for a sixth straight year, owing largely to his “incredibly in-depth knowledge of the agriculture space,” as one ­money manager puts it. Carson, 54, told investors in September 2007 that rising demand for fertilizers would lead to higher prices and profits, and he reiterated his buy recommendations on phosphates producer Mosaic Co. of Plymouth, Minnesota, and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. By mid-­September 2008 the stocks had outperformed the sector by 77.4 and 52.6 percentage points, respectively. Unranked last year, Robert Koort of Goldman, Sachs & Co. is in second place. The former four-time first-­teamer in the predecessor Chemicals/Specialty sector is “simply the best stock picker in the group,” according to one investor. In January, Koort urged clients to buy Praxair, the biggest producer of industrial ­gases in the Americas, at $76.68, ­citing the Danbury, ­Connecticut–based company’s stable earnings growth. By mid-­September the stock had gained 13.2 percent, rising to $86.80. P.J. Juvekar, who holds steady in third place, “provides the best weekly update of the chemical group,” says one supporter. The ­Citi analyst ­also recommended Praxair, but his call, in October 2007, was premature. The stock gained 14.1 percent by late December but gave back those gains — and more — in January before starting a new ascent; it was up 9.3 percent from Juvekar’s call through mid-­September.

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