Putting your opinions about stocks into print is a little different than reviewing movies or books. You can't prove that SinCity or Harry Potter is great/average/terrible, but when you say that you do/don't like a stock, there's a nice little track record to follow from that point on.

I say this because I haven't been an especially big fan of Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM), yet the stock has consistently marched merrily upward since May of 2005, now sitting just below its 52-week high. In other words, I've been pretty consistently wrong about this one.

Revenue growth of 3% doesn't sound all that impressive, but it was above the average expectation and the company saw considerably better profitability in its operations (due in large part to lower corn costs). Segment operating profits were up 8%, and reported and adjusted earnings per share rose more than 34% to $0.55 -- smoking the published average estimate.

The oilseeds processing business produced respectable growth (operating income up more than 7%), while the performance of the corn processing business was exceptional. Thanks to lower corn prices and higher ethanol prices, reported segment operating profits were up more than 79%.

Conditions are almost shaping up to be a perfect storm for ADM in 2006. High-fructose corn syrup prices are going up by a double-digit amount (much to the chagrin of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Pepsi (NYSE:PEP)), ethanol continues to supplant MTBE as a gasoline additive, and even if energy costs keep rising, ADM can fall back on the fact that it uses more coal than many other processors.

I'm still doubtful that Americans will embrace ethanol to the extent that Brazilians have, or biodiesel to the extent that Europeans seem to intend. That said, ethanol facilities are going up all over the Midwest, and the process of producing ethanol and/or plastics from corn continues to become ever more efficient and cost-effective.

Given my track record here, I'm not going to say that the stock can't go up. I'll just wrap it up by saying that I'm still skeptical that this company will produce attractive long-term returns on invested capital. So, while it could be a very good trade, I'm not sure about it's long-term investment prospects.

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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).