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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 worst ...
Whether today's column is a story about a lousy analyst, lousy timing, or a little bit of both, I'll leave you to judge. It's clear to this Fool, though, that Stanford Research's coverage on Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN  ) , initiated this morning, is about as wrong-headed as they come.

Stanford ended the week by "starting" Garmin at "sell." And while the media outlets that reported the coverage haven't yet explained Stanford's reasoning, I don't think it's terribly hard to guess: A couple of days ago, GPS chipmaker SiRF Technology (Nasdaq: SIRF  ) warned investors that it was encountering "greater than expected softness in product demand from its customers especially in the ... Personal Navigation Devices market."

As we learned last month, warnings from SiRF have the ability to hit Garmin -- a key SiRF customer -- especially hard. This is precisely what happened earlier this week, although it seems to have taken Stanford a couple of days to notice. Now that the damage has already been done, here comes Stanford, telling us to sell Garmin after the fact.

But hold on a sec ...
I've got a couple of problems with Stanford's advice, though. First and foremost, the analyst just doesn't have a good record of making smart stock calls in the past. According to CAPS, Stanford gets just 41% of its picks right, and it ranks in the bottom fifth of investors that we track. Hardly inspirational.

Second, according to a Deutsche Bank note on SiRF's problems, "most of the shortfall came from smaller PDN vendors," rather than from larger GPS vendors such as Garmin and TomTom. Third, and finally, and independent of the SiRF news, we learned this morning that the E.U. regulators have extended their review of Nokia's (NYSE: NOK  ) proposed acquisition of mapping-software maker Navteq (NYSE: NVT  ) .

As you probably know, Navteq provides maps not just to Garmin, TomTom, and Nokia, but also to Internet-based map providers, including Mapquest -- a subsidiary of Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL -- as well as Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . With so many companies dependent on Navteq's data, the E.U.'s antitrust tsars have "serious concerns about competition in the market for navigable digital maps."

Now, whether this portends a wholesale derailing of the planned concentration in this sector -- a nixing of Nokia's Navteq deal, and possibly TomTom's purchase of Tele Atlas -- the imposition of conditions on one or both deals, or just additional delays and complications for the buyers, there's one conclusion that's clear: This is a big boost for Garmin. Its two key competitors in the GPS market are mired in pseudo-Soviet red tape over in the EUSSR, and what's bad for them is good for Garmin.

And Stanford wants to sell into this news? Well, that just leaves me one question: Where do I sign up to buy?

More GPS Foolishness

Does David Gardner agree? Find out what the Fool's co-founder, Motley Fool Stock Advisor co-advisor, and the man who recommended both Time Warner and Garmin thinks about the company today, when you sign up for a free, 30-day trial to Stock Advisor.

Garmin is also a Global Gains recommendation.

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 ranked No. 904 out of more than 93,000 players. The Fool has a disclosure policy .

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