It's been an active year for Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), and Thursday's earnings announcement -- like its fellow chemicals giant DuPont (NYSE:DD) earlier in the week -- didn't do anything to dampen the spirit at the company. Indeed, amid a sloppy economy and the events surrounding a major acquisition, Dow produced one awfully good quarter.

For the quarter, the company turned in earnings of $711 million, or $0.63 per share. This is up from $428 million, or $0.46 per share, a year earlier. If you're keeping track, that was a 37% increase in earnings per share. Revenue, however, was down 22% to $12.05 billion. It still exceeded Wall Street's expectations of $11.85 billion. Nevertheless management warned that it continues to anticipate a rough year in 2010.

Still, the current quarter showed an improving business climate. Sequential quarterly revenues increased by 6%, and if you back out the seasonality inherent in Dow AgroSciences, volumes were 3% higher than in the prior quarter. At the same time, on a pro forma basis -- primarily to back out the effects of the Rohm & Haas acquisition -- sales slid by 32% year over year.

Focusing on Dow's sequential approach, which given our rapidly changing business conditions seems the most relevant, fully five of its segments were up quarter-over-quarter. Only two groups (Health and Agricultural Sciences, along with Basic Chemicals) dipped sequentially.

But, as CEO Andrew Liveris noted during the company's conference call, much of the sequential strengthening resulted from Chinese demand. As he pointed out, "...here are some examples of the sequential volume growth we experienced in China, in particular: electronic materials, up 15%; coating and infrastructure up 16%; automotive up 5%; and polyethylene, up 10%." He also noted that Brazil has similarly "rebounded very quickly."

So while the likes of United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), 3M (NYSE:MMM), Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE:IR), and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) took a meat ax to costs, but still suffered earnings declines, Dow was able to experience a busy quarter -- or year, for that matter -- and still crank up its profits. That, my Foolish friends, is the sort of company I want in my portfolio.  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies above. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.