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 worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
Shares of sportswear superstar Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) are taking a victory lap today, defying the day's earlier "Dow"-nturn thanks to an upgrade from megabanker JP Morgan. Pointing to Nike's 16% drop from its recent 52-week high near $68, JP dismissed investor concerns that a pullback in consumer spending would ruin this stock, and predicted it would outperform the S&P 500.

No fan of understatement, JP called Nike the "best positioned" consumer goods stock, and argued that "its premier brands, global reach and consistently solid execution" would win the race for Nike. But just how good an odds-maker is JP, anyway?

Let's go to the tape
As it turns out, JP's pretty good at the stock-picking game. With a CAPS rating of 90.56, the banker places in the top 10% of CAPS investors. And over the course of the 500-plus picks we've tracked JP making over the past year or so, the banker has shown itself to be consistently right more often than wrong, picking such winners as:

Company

JP Said:

CAPS Says (out of 5):

JP's Pick Beating S&P by:

Deckers (Nasdaq: DECK  )

Outperform

**

59 points

EMC (NYSE: EMC  )

Outperform

*****

21 points

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  )

Outperform

***

10 points

Of course, even All-Star stock pickers have bad days. A few of JP Morgan's coincided with the following picks:

Company

JP Said:

CAPS Says:

JP's Pick Lagging S&P by:

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  )

Outperform

***

40 points

J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  )

Outperform

**

39 points

Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  )

Outperform

**

3 points

As you can see, JP Morgan has made a couple of calls in the footwear industry already, albeit slightly removed from Nike's athletic bailiwick. One went very right (Deckers). One went slightly wrong (Crocs). JP's record is similar with retailers who sell shoes -- we've got a pretty decent performance out of the Wal-Mart pick, and something less than decent with J.C. Penney.

A mixed record overall. But that actually illustrates my feelings on this latest recommendation of Nike.

Foolish takeaway
You see, at 17.6 times trailing earnings, Nike sells for a significant premium relative to the 13.4% average five-year growth that analysts project for it. That premium comes down a bit when you value the company on its free cash flow -- Nike sells for just 15.2 times that.

To me, that makes the stock not an obvious buy, not an obvious sell -- call this one a "hold." While I won't say JP Morgan's out of its mind recommending Nike today, I remain unconvinced.


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