Sanford C. Bernstein
William Featherston UBS
Shannon Nome Deutsche
Joseph Allman JPMorgan ; Thomas Driscoll Barclays ; Brian Singer Goldman Sachs ; Jonathan Wolff Credit Suisse
Benjamin Dell steps up one notch to claim his first No. 1 finish. A former geologist with British Petroleum who joined Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in 2005, Dell performs proprietary and thoughtful research, says one supporter. The 31-year-old analyst predicted that falling oil prices would lead to margin pressure on Murphy Oil Corp., which he downgraded to sell in May, at $95.35. By mid-September the share price of the El Dorado, Arkansasbased company had sunk 26.4 percent, to $70.17, compared with the sectors 31.9 percent decline. Dell earned a masters degree in earth sciences from Oxford Universitys St. Peters College in 1998. William Featherston, who leaps from runner-up to second place, is one of the most thorough, hard-working analysts covering his industries, declares one money manager. The UBS researcher elevated Southwestern Energy Co. to his top pick in June 2007, at a split-adjusted $22.25, and has maintained that position ever since, citing the Houston-based companys strong growth potential. The stock had soared 118.8 percent, to $48.69, one year later before being dragged down by falling oil prices. Even so, through mid-September 2008 it was up 47.4 percent since Featherstons upgrade. Shannon Nome of Deutsche Bank Securities debuts in third. She tends to think outside the box and is not afraid to be a contrarian when warranted, says one booster. Nome has held Chesapeake Energy Corp. as her top pick since July 2006, owing to the Oklahoma Citybased outfits strong cash flow. In the 12 months ended mid-September, the stock gained 22.4 percent.