If you're an investing Fool and are looking for a group that is showing real signs of strength, you might want to spend some time with the chemical sector. This week, the two biggest members of that group, Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) and DuPont (NYSE: DD) have raised their flags with results that were far stronger than was the case a year ago.

Looking specifically at Dow, the company managed to capitalize on a combination of stronger demand and higher prices to put together an awfully solid quarter. The company achieved net income of $466 million, or $0.41 per share versus the same quarter of 2009 when Dow earned a measly $24 million, or $0.03 a share. Backing out certain items, the company earned $0.43 a share in the most recent quarter and $0.11 per share in last year's first period, while analysts following the company had anticipated earnings of about $0.30 a share. Revenues were up a full 48%.

A year ago, Dow was doing everything possible to finance its agreed-upon acquisition of Rohm and Haas. This was after being stiffed by the government of Kuwait, which had pulled out of a joint venture with Dow that would have gone a long way toward paying for the purchase. In any event, Dow managed to scrape up the necessary funds, and has amazingly strengthened itself since that time.

As the company noted in disclosing its earnings, "Synergies related to the acquisition of Rohm and Haas and structural cost reductions continue to exceed company goals, with savings of $275 million in the quarter and $1.5 billion program-to-date, resulting in an annualized run-rate of $1.8 billion."

Dow has at least its share of business segments -- seven, to be precise -- and only its Health and Agricultural Sciences unit experienced a reduction in sales from a year ago.

Conversely, Basic Plastics sales were up 49%, mostly on higher prices, and sales of Performance Products grew by 41%. The company's four other units all checked in with sales that increased at least 20%.

In addition to the two largest chemical manufacturers, such smaller producers as Celanese (NYSE: CE) and Eastman Chemical (NYSE: EMN) have reported great quarters. On that basis, we should await the results from FMC (NYSE: FMC) when it reports next week. In my mind, however, Dow, with its spectacular recovery from the frantic events of early 2009, remains the quantitative and qualitative leader of the pack.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Motely Fool has a powerful disclosure policy.