This Just In: Upgrades and Downgrades

At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.

But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we'll be tracking the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock of soup chef Campbell (NYSE: CPB  ) from "hold" to "sell." No sooner had it done so than the decision caught flak from the ever-quotable Jim Cramer, who asked, "What's Goldman Sachs thinking?" He pointed out that Campbell "had one of the best quarters out there."

To which Goldman would respond that the primary reason Campbell beat Wall Street estimates last month is that it paid a lower-than-expected tax rate. Looking forward, Goldman doesn't expect that Campbell's "business trends will slow materially," but does expect it to underperform "our broader coverage universe." So, cosmologically speaking, Goldman simply thinks you can find better places for your money than Campbell.

So who's the more likely victor in this battle of the Wall Street titans? Goldman Sachs, or Jim Cramer? To handicap this race, we turn to CAPS to check each contender's record. There we find that Goldman boasts CAPS All-Star status with an 88.10 rating, versus Cramer's sub-All-Star rating of 76.94. Here are a couple of the picks that got each analyst where it (or he) is today:

Goldman Says:

CAPS Says (out of five):

Goldman's Pick Beating (Lagging) S&P by:

Verigy (Nasdaq: VRGY  )

Outperform

*****

11 points

Trump Entertainment (Nasdaq: TRMP  )

Outperform

*

2 points

Cramer Says:

CAPS Says (out of five):

Cramer's Pick Beating (Lagging) S&P by:

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  )

Underperform

*

17 points

Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  )

Outperform

*

(19 points)



Based on their records alone, it looks to me that Goldman's more likely right than Cramer on this one. Moreover, I actually agree with the analyst's reasoning. Now, I'm sure many investors look on Campbell as a safe haven against the event of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's predicted recession. People aren't going to stop eating soup, no matter how bad the economy gets -- in fact, if it gets bad enough, they may be forced to eat a whole lot more soup.

That said, Campbell's price simply doesn't look attractive to me today. I mean, really, a 20 P/E on a stock expected to grow its profits at 7% long-term? That's just silly. Moreover, the stock trades at higher P/E and P/S ratios than do fellow food companies like General Mills, Kraft (NYSE: KFT  ) , and Heinz (NYSE: HNZ  ) , although they all sport similar operating margins. Top it all off with the fact that Campbell pays its shareholders the lowest dividend yield of the bunch, and I think you're better off spending the coming recession dining on Wheaties topped with Velveeta and ketchup (yum!) than on overpriced chicken noodle soup.

Disagree? That's fine -- I won't take it personally. But I would ask that you post your comments on Motley Fool CAPS, where investors help investors beat the market every day of the week.

Dell is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Inside Value choice. Baidu is a Rule Breakers pick. Kraft and Heinz are Income Investor selections. You can check out any -- or all! -- of our newsletters with a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 25 out of nearly 24,000 raters. The Fool's disclosure policy is delicious.


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