From whatever direction you examine its quarterly results, Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), the largest U.S. chemical company, performed admirably. In the process, it joined the second- and third-largest chemical companies -- ExxonMobil's (NYSE: XOM) chemical unit and DuPont (NYSE: DD) -- in the winner's circle.

The company's net income for the final quarter of 2010 was $511 million, or $0.37 cents a share, leagues away from the $172 million, or $0.08 per share, in the same period of 2009. Back out one-time items, and the most recent per-share number increases by a dime to $0.47 a share, or a $0.12 beat for the company.

Dow's sales increased by 22% year on year and 7% sequentially, increasing by double-digits versus a year ago in all geographic areas. At the same time, its EBITDA margin expanded by a healthy 200 basis points year on year.

As CEO Andrew Liveris said on the quarterly statement, "We delivered record sales for both the quarter and the entire year in emerging markets, while our leadership positions in North America and Europe enabled us to capitalize ... in those economies." On a segment basis, Dow's two biggest units, plastics and performance products, led the parade with sales growth of 20% and 23%, respectively.

I frankly remain impressed that Dow Chemical has come as far as it has, given that two years ago it appeared that its planned $16.5 billion acquisition of Rohm and Haas would be thwarted by Dow's funding having disintegrated. But the company was able to tap several sources, including Warren Buffett, leverage its balance sheet to the hilt, and complete the purchase. Since the April 2009 closing, Dow has steadily reduced its debt level and achieved the sort of strengthening indicated by its most recent quarter.

In that connection, Liveris said on his post-release call:

Over the last several years, we have made significant steps to put all of the key elements of our transformation in place. Make no mistake. We have work yet to do, and our focus on execution must and will remain sharp. However, today Dow is a very different company than it was just a few years ago.

For the sake of perspective, don't assume that the past quarter was a cakewalk for the entire chemicals industry. Results for smaller players such as Eastman Chemical (NYSE: EMN) and Ashland (NYSE: ASH) were little better than mediocre. But it's time to look ahead, and as Liveris said of his company, "Dow is well-positioned for the improving economic climate and will continue to benefit from growth in high-margin sectors."

Given what I see in today's Dow Chemical, my strong belief is that Fools would be well-served by remaining carefully focused on this power-packed company.

The Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. 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. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies named in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.