The country's second-largest (and world's fourth-largest) oil company, Chevron (NYSE:CVX), reported earnings on Friday. Unfortunately for part-time investors who don't necessarily fancy the notion of spending lots of time deciphering earnings gobbledygook, it wasn't the cleanest report.

Core sales and operating revenue rose better than 35% to an impressive $53.4 billion in the third quarter (which, by the way, is close to half of what ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) produced in its last quarter). From there, earnings comparisons devolve into a question of which numbers you want to compare and what sorts of figures you want to subtract out. On the simplest level, reported net income rose 12% and the diluted per-share number rose more than 8% to $1.64.

Though this number was well below expectations, adding back the $600 million in income lost because of storms would have put the number more in line with the average estimate. Unfortunately, it appears that the negative effects of the storms will linger into the fourth quarter and be even worse because the majority of Chevron's Gulf production is still offline. That's certainly unfortunate because these are the big windfall days for the industry, as seen with recent reports from Exxon, ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and even BP (NYSE:BP).

Although the U.S. exploration and production business and the chemicals business had relatively tough quarters, the overseas exploration and production business and global refining and marketing fared better. What's more, winning the battle with CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) for Unocal is already paying off in terms of higher reported production.

For me, the trouble with Chevron is that it doesn't really stand out in any particular way. It's cheap, but not quite the cheapest. It pays a fair dividend, but others pay more. It has a solid return on equity, but not the highest. Nevertheless, there looks to still be some headroom on the stock price. Of course, predicting oil company earnings growth is implicitly predicting future oil and gas prices, and that's more voodoo than science.

Interestingly, these shares are up only about 8% over the last year while the company's average realized price for oil was up 47% in this quarter. That also makes them a relative laggard in the sector, although only ConocoPhillips has really shined. With a realistic chance to increase energy production and a pretty conservative valuation, these shares might be worth a look to more value-minded investors, though I'd caution anyone that mid-to-late-cycle commodity plays can be tricky. Then again, who's to say when this cycle ends?

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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).