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Tickers in this Article: USO, DRQ, ATW, PBR, NE
Oil is still a far cry from its record high of more than $147 per barrel in the summer of 2008. By and large though, the price of oil has made a strong turnaround since last winter. The United States Oil Fund (NYSE:USO), which is designed to track the performance of crude oil, has risen 60% since hitting a 52-week low in late February. As one might imagine, many oil companies also saw their stock prices bounce back this year. Here are four great oil stocks worth checking out.(Before investing in oil markets, read A Guide to Investing In Oil Markets.)

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Not a Routine Drill

The offshore drilling equipment manufacturer Dril-Quip (NYSE: DRQ) quietly emerged as one of the best-performing stocks in the sector in 2009. Shares of DRQ have surged 200% since 2008. Dril-Quip's stock price currently sits just below its 52-week high and is within striking distance of its multiyear high from the summer of 2008.

Through the first three quarters of 2009, surprisingly, Dril-Quip is was far off of its achievements for the comparable period in 2008. Although diluted EPS slid 2% on a 2% decrease in total revenue compared to the same time period last year, this company has the ability to continue its share appreciation. Dril-Quip is a pure play on the deep water drilling market and the company is working to expand its capacity in the U.S. as well as in Brazil and Singapore.

The mid cap offshore driller Atwood Oceanics (NYSE:ATW) experienced quite the reversal in fortunes in 2009 as well, following a steep drop off at the end of 2008. The company has watched its stock price surge 129.5% year-to-date. Atwood recently closed out a sound fiscal year from both operational and financial standpoints. Diluted EPS rose 16.4% on an 11.4% pop in revenue when compared to the company's 2008 fiscal year.

An Emerging Oil Force

Strong production from Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) in recent years has helped push Brazil toward the forefront of Latin American oil producing nations. In 2009, shares of PBR have rallied 100%. The company accounts for more than 95% of Brazil's oil output, operating at 2 million barrels a day in October.

Another foreign oil company that has had a brilliant 2009 is Switzerland-based Noble (NYSE:NE). The offshore drilling contractor has seen its shares appreciate 84.3% this year. Earlier this month the stock hit a new 52-week high at $45.60 per share.

Noble continued to grow its business in its most recent quarters as EPS jumped 14.8% on an 11.2% improvement in revenue when compared to the year-ago quarter. The company has a formidable backlog and continues to secure new long-term commitments. Noble also repurchased 2 million shares over the course of its fiscal Q3.

The Bottom Line

Oil began 2009 in the same manner in which it ended 2008 - on a downswing. The price of crude has since made a respectable comeback and many oil companies have also seen the same in their stock prices. These four companies were among the best-performing oil stocks in 2009, and their shareholders hope that the momentum will be sustainable through 2010 and beyond. (To learn about what drives oil prices, read What economic indicators are especially important to oil traders?)

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