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 ...
Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and how low the Crisis has laid the heads of the Wall Street Wise. Just one year ago, American Technology Research ranked among the best stock pickers on the Street. But after a series of disastrous calls -- or fine calls, driven to disaster by a global recession ...

Company

AmTech Said:

CAPS Says:

AmTech's Pick Lagging S&P by:

MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE: WFR  )

Outperform

****

50 points

Suntech Power (NYSE: STP  )

Outperform

*****

41 points

Research In Motion

(Nasdaq: RIMM  )

Outperform

**

27 points

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  )

Outperform

**

22 points

... AmTech now ranks in the bottom 20% of investors tracked by CAPS, its reputation torpedoed by a record of 37% accuracy, and dogged by the humbling statistic: The average AmTech pick lags the market by over four percentage points.

Not even pitch-perfect picks like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) -- up 15 and 16 points, respectively -- have been enough to redeem AmTech's rep, or make the "Tech" part of its name look any less the misnomer.

But here's one that might
Defying the odds, AmTech rolled the dice once more on Wednesday, making what for all the world looks like another perfect pick: Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) .

Arguing that mobile phone sales are more likely to just flatten next year than decline (as the rest of Wall Street seems to expect), and that a collapse in commodity and transport costs has relieved margin pressure on the mobile makers, AmTech thinks now's the time to call back Nokia. AmTech predicts a "high-teens margin" for Nokia in the near term, and renewed sales growth in the second half of 2009. And while that may seem far off to you and me, AmTech reasons that it "may be early, but [the] current valuation [is] too low and pessimism too high to ignore."

I agree
Actually, as far as it being too early to buy Nokia ... well, I already bought it myself, so clearly I differ with AmTech on that point. But on AmTech's major thesis, that Nokia is cheap, I'm in full-throated, table-pounding, reach-for-the-bullhorn agreement. Here's why:

According to the Fool's data provider, Capital IQ, Nokia earned some $7.4 billion over the past 12 months, and generated even more free cash flow than it gets to report as "net income" under GAAP accounting rules: $7.5 billion in all.

Whichever way you slice the data, therefore, Nokia's currently trading for about 8 times its trailing profits. For a company that most everyone on Wall Street expects to grow those profits at more than 12% per year over the next half decade, that price is well and truly ridiculous -- the margin of safety on this one is just huge.

Foolish takeaway
That's my buy thesis. I'm sticking with it, and I'm acting on it -- or rather, I plan to act on it, but not until the Fool's 10-day cooling off period expires. But even if, as AmTech suggests, we may be early in buying before the second half of 2009, not to worry: Nokia's got a 5.3% dividend.

I don't know about you, but that should be plenty to tide me over till Wall Street gives Nokia a callback.

Fool contributor Rich Smith own shares of Nokia, but not of any other companies named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 1,513 out of more than 120,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Nokia and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Suntech Power is a Rule Breakers recommendation.


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