I'll give credit where credit is due right off the bat -- PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG), a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation, has a very good record of steady performance in terms of operating cash flow, despite operating in a host of cyclical markets. The trouble is, though, that while "steady" means there haven't been big drops, it also suggests there's not much happening in the way of growth.

In the fourth quarter, PPG saw revenue rise 4% as a very slight decline in volume was counterbalanced by a healthy increase in prices. Further, all three major operating units posted top-line growth: Coatings were up 4%, glass rose 5%, and chemicals climbed 2%.

The bad news is that that's largely it for the really good news. Margins suffered from high energy and materials costs, and the company saw a roughly 19% drop in earnings per share versus last year, once you adjust for various charges. On a segment basis, the coatings business managed to achieve decent operating income growth of 7%, but the glass and chemical businesses saw significantly lower income because of the aforementioned impact of energy and materials.

There are some reasons for optimism in the segments, but not a whole lot. For instance, the company is major player in automotive coatings, but contact with Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) has not been a good thing, even though the company is working to reduce its exposure here. Likewise, while the company is a technology leader in coatings, it trails companies such as Akzo Nobel,Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW), and RPM (NYSE:RPM) in the large industrial and architectural markets. What's more, the glass business is stuck between high costs and Asian competition, and the chemicals business is probably seeing the peak of the chloralkali business in a year or two.

Still, all is not lost. PPG has delivered better historical growth than have companies such as DuPont (NYSE:DD) and DowChemical (NYSE:DOW), and it has a 34-year record of dividend increases. What's more, the company seems to be working on building a better retail distribution base for its paints, and that could add some worthwhile growth. That said, while some parts of the chemicals industry may be interesting to me, it looks as though PPG's stock trades more or less about where it should.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).