Based on the aggregated intelligence of 170,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, natural gas producer Southwestern Energy (NYSE: SWN) has earned a respected four-star ranking.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at Southwestern's business and see what CAPS investors are saying about the stock right now.

Southwestern facts

Headquarters (Founded)

Houston (1929)

Market Cap

$12 billion

Industry

Independent oil and gas

Trailing-12-Month Revenue

$2.39 billion

Management

CEO Steven Mueller (since 2009)
CFO Gregory Kerley (since 1999)

Return on Equity (Average, Past 3 Years)

16%

Cash/Debt

$13.95 million / $1.18 billion

Competitors

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK)
Contango Oil & Gas (NYSE: MCF)
Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB)

Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's) and Motley Fool CAPS.

On CAPS, 96% of the 858 members who have rated Southwestern believe the stock will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. These bulls include ameister and All-Star creek138, who is ranked in the top 0.5% of our community.

This past summer, ameister tapped Southwestern as a natural selection: "Natty gas vastly underperforming on macro economic slowdown. Financially strong and should benefit from consolidation in the space."

Just yesterday, in fact, Southwestern popped on the news that fellow natural gas producer EXCO Resources (NYSE: XCO) would be bought out by its CEO at a substantial premium. When you consider that Southwestern's price performance over the past year (down 25%) significantly lags that of rivals Chesapeake (down 10%), Contango (up 10%), and Williams (up 15%), Southwestern might be the next beaten-down producer drawing some big attention.

CAPS member creek138 expands on Southwestern as a tantalizing "top-down" pick:

I'll check the trending 6 months, 1 year, and [year-to-date] to find lagging sectors. ... In this case, I think O&G exploration and development as well as utilities are undervalued. ...

1. Winter is fast approaching
2. Energy prices are still comparatively low and will go up
3. The economy is rebounding
4. The oil spill worries are becoming something of the past for the majority of Americans
5. Likely republican majority in one chamber will make it difficult to pass major energy reform, thus old energy wins and new energy loses.

After I determine which sectors to buy, I'll review each individual stock in CAPS. Anything less than 3 stars gets filtered out. 4 and 5 star picks are most preferable, as these quintiles usually gains points in a year's time.

What do you think about Southwestern, or any other stock for that matter? If you want to retire rich, you need to put together the best portfolio you can. Owning exceptional stocks is a surefire way to secure your financial future, and on Motley Fool CAPS, thousands of investors are working every day to find them. CAPS is 100% free, so get started!

Fool contributor Brian Pacampara owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. Chesapeake is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool owns shares of Contango. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy always gets a perfect score.