Wall Street's Best Stock Pickers

We've made a living making fun of Wall Street here at The Motley Fool. Most of the time it's all in sporting fun, as it should be. After all, there are some very good stock pickers among the spit and polish. Three of the best are Miller Johnson, Cowen & Company, and Roth Capital.

How do I know? CAPS, a new beta service from The Motley Fool that ranks players by their ability to create a market-beating portfolio of stocks. Players can either go long or short, earning points based on how well their picks beat the percentage performance of the S&P 500 over the same period.

Points begin accumulating once a player has seven picks in the CAPS database. The total is combined with an accuracy rating to arrive at an overall score between 1 and 100. The top player earns the coveted 100, CAPS-speak for a performance that's better than everyone else in the community.

Since a recent test phase of the service began roughly a month ago, more than 4,000 players have rated stocks. But some, like our Wall Street participants, haven't been willing players. We began tracking them on Aug. 10, so that common Fools could see how well they stacked up against the pros.

A not-so-random walk down Wall Street
How? Our team enters picks from analysts based on their equity ratings as they appear in Briefing.com, but only when there's an obvious opinion to be tracked. Meaningless ratings such as "In-Line" or "Market Perform" are ignored by the system.

For example, when Cowen & Co. initiated analyst coverage of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) on Aug. 16 with an "outperform" rating, that pick was entered into CAPS. It's proven successful thus far; Intel is up by more than 5% against the S&P since Cowen's call, adding five points to the analysts' rating.

But accuracy matters, too. Here, all three of our analysts are doing well. Miller Johnson, for example, has been right on all but one of its seven outperform picks: Nuvelo (Nasdaq: NUVO  ) , trailing the market by 3% since the firm rated it on Aug. 24.

The big gainers have made the most difference, though. For Miller Johnson, ranked at 98.49, it's CollaGenexPharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: CGPI  ) , up 32% against the S&P since Aug 11. For Cowen, ranked 97.33, it's Witness Systems (Nasdaq: WITS  ) , up 20% against the S&P since Aug. 14. And for Roth Capital, ranked at a whopping 99.38, it's Blue Coat Systems (Nasdaq: BCSI  ) , up 31% against the S&P since Aug. 17.

The folly of crowds
CAPS' community intelligence may be its most interesting aspect. Each player's pick is aggregated into a whole that, in turn, creates star ratings for stocks in the CAPS universe. Five-star stocks are those the community expects to outperform. One-star stocks, conversely, are considered underperformers. Any stock worth at least $100 million and trading for $1.50 a share or better is fair game, unlike the Street, where small- and micro-cap stocks are typically ignored.

But who rates the stock is more important than how many people rate it; the performance of those making the selection is factored into the stock's rating.

Money gone mad
Of course, we use the phrase "all-star" liberally. It's way too early to make a judgment about Wall Street's best and worst. The numbers can and probably will change dramatically as time goes on. Nevertheless, Miller Johnson, Cowen, and Roth are three of the best right now.

And Mad Money host Jim Cramer, with a rating better than less than 20% of the CAPS universe, is among the worst right now. Identified by the CAPS nickname TrackJimCramer, the superstar trader and co-founder of TheStreet.com has been accurate 45% of the time -- pretty darn impressive considering how many calls he's made. But he's had twice as many double-digit losers than winners recently. Among others, VimpelCom (NYSE: VIP  ) is losing by more than 18%, MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE: WFR  ) is nearly 12% behind, and CB Richard Ellis (NYSE: CBG  ) lags by more than 16%.

Earn your Fool cap!
To Cramer's credit, he's nowhere near the bottom of the pack when it comes to the pros, and he's not that far behind Fool co-founder and CAPS fan David Gardner, who was rated higher than just 26.64% of the community when I wrote this article.

Think you're Fool enough to beat Cramer? David? Four thousand other Fools? Show us. Start earning your Fool cap today by clicking here now. And be sure to tune in tomorrow, when we reveal the three worst players on the Street at the moment. I guarantee you'll be as surprised as I was.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers has 32 picks in his CAPS portfolio, including SigmaTel (Nasdaq: SGTL  ) , which he believes is a wonderful short candidate. Think he's wrong? Get in the game and add your own rating.

Tim didn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all of Tim's stock holdings by checking his Fool profile. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy always beats the average.


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