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Today we highlight analysts' Top Picks in the energy sector.

We screened the S&P 500 for highly-rated companies where analysts have raised estimates during the past four weeks, sorting the results by sector. Forty-nine of 500 made the cut, and Energy was the clear winner.

Oil has held above $100/bbl every day since July 5, the longest of the three 100-plus periods since 2008. Since higher oil translates directly into higher earnings for exploration companies, rising estimates make sense intuitively.

Of the sixteen energy companies where analysts forecast higher profits this quarter, ten have no sell ratings:

The opportunity for investors becomes apparent when comparing the performance of the energy sector to the S&P 500 as a whole. The energy group has generally underperformed during the past five years, though each time the ratio of the S&P Energy Sector to the S&P 500 fell to .36 (as it has recently), the trend has reversed. Since higher sustained oil prices generate higher energy sector earnings, we suspect energy's recent strong performance is in its early stage and likely to accelerate.

One final comment for blog readers: Analysts upped estimates this past week on both Rowen Companies (RDC) and Noble Corp (NE), though we omitted them since each has at least one sell. With earnings growth forecast to rise this year 58% and 61%, we think they merit consideration as well.

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