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 did.

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 worst ...
An upgrade from Broadpoint Capital helped to mitigate the slide in shares of Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) shares this morning. Although the company met consensus guidance for third-quarter 2008 earnings and reported its best revenue quarter ever, investors who were apparently disappointed by guidance sold off the world's largest (but for how long?) maker of video games. The stock was down by more than 2% in early-morning trading.

Broadpoint seems to think that the clatter of shares falling down stairs sounded like opportunity knocking, and it calls EA a "buy" today. Call me a cynic, but to my ears, this analyst's upgrade has the ring of a contrarian indicator.

Here's why
After watching Broadpoint's performance on CAPS over the past several months, I remain unimpressed. Broadpoint has made a good 91 buy/sell recommendations -- most of them wrong -- since we began tracking the analyst last September. The firm's 37% accuracy rating and negative CAPS score owe partly to wrong turns on these stocks:

Company

Broadpoint Said:

CAPS Says (Out of 5):

Broadpoint's Pick Lagging S&P by:

Take-Two Interactive  (Nasdaq: TTWO  )

Outperform

***

1 point

Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI  )

Outperform

*****

4 points

GameStop (NYSE: GME  )

Outperform

****

7 points

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  )

Outperform

****

10 points

Yet they say every dog has its day. Broadpoint was a "good boy" on the days it picked these:

Company

Broadpoint Said:

CAPS Says:

Broadpoint's Pick Beating S&P by:

THQ (Nasdaq: THQI  )

Underperform

**

13 points

Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  )

Outperform

*****

4 points

Now add to this lackluster record Electronic Arts' loss of $386 million over the past 12 months, during one of the biggest videogaming booms in recent memory, and what conclusion should you draw?

Foolish takeaway
What we have here, folks, is an analyst that's proved itself to be wrong nearly twice often as it's right -- not just on stocks in general, but on the gaming and related PC industries as well. Said analyst tells us to buy an unprofitable EA (or an EA trading for more than 100 times trailing free cash flow, if you prefer that metric), right when it's facing its toughest competitor yet, in the form of a merged Vivendi-Activision. And we're supposed to buy EA now, on this analyst's say-so alone? Puh-lease.

EA is a sell, plain and simple.


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