This Just In: Upgrades and Downgrades

At The Motley Fool, we have our fun with Wall Street analysts.

We mock their pinstripe-and-wingtip attire. Their multimillion-dollar bonuses. And not unrelatedly, their failure to recognize the Tech Bubble -- or worse, their recognizing it, then applying lipstick and pimping it to the individual investor. What's more, their ceaseless stream of upgrades and downgrades, sometimes on the same stock and just days apart, make Jim Cramer look like a poster boy for the "long-term-buy-and-hold" movement.

As such, it may look a bit out of place for us to introduce this newest occasional feature: This Just In. Here, I'll be taking a magnifying glass to some of the hottest analyst upgrades and downgrades of the hour.

Isn't that a little hypocritical?
Guilty as charged -- if that were all I'm doing. Because the fact of the matter is that an analyst's upgrading or downgrading a stock means little when viewed in isolation. That's even more so when you consider the heft of the firms doing the "analyzing." When a Bank of America or a JPMorgan issues a downgrade, the mere publication of the news often suffices to spark a selloff, "proving" the analyst right -- in the short term.

What's more significant is the analyst's record over the long term, and that's what we'll be focusing on in this column.

Mr. Market? Meet Mr. CAPS
With the debut of Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's new tool for rating everything from stocks to investors to analysts to the long-term durability of the Toyota Corolla (give us some time on that last one), we're not just taking a magnifying glass to the short-term meanderings of Mr. Market's mind. 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...
Early Tuesday morning, investment banking superstar Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) upgraded the stock of Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) to "buy" from the "hold" rating it has maintained since initiating coverage of the stock back in October 2005. The investment house sees "upside to estimates" based on "the recent slide in oil and the dollar." The way Goldman sees it, cheaper oil should reduce P&G's raw material costs and permit gross margin expansion. And a cheaper dollar would inflate the value of foreign currency earnings, once they're translated back into those devalued dollars.

Good news, you say? Time to buy some Bounty? Well, don't mean to spoil your good Cheer, but you just might mess your Pampers when you learn how very bad a job Goldman has done with P&G so far: Investors who followed Goldman's advice and took no action or didn't add to a position in P&G over the last 15 months have missed out on 16% returns.

It's a shame that Goldman came so late to the P&G party, but overall, Goldman's record looks a lot better than this one blown call would suggest. With a combined CAPS rating of 97.23, Goldman's analysts sit within the top 3% of CAPS players. Reviewing the firm's recent recommendations, here are a few of the companies that have helped to earn Goldman the coveted rank of "CAPS All-Star":

Goldman Says:

CAPS Says:

Goldman's Pick Beating S&P by:

FuelCell

(Nasdaq: FCEL  )

Underperform

*

24 points

UAL (Nasdaq: UAUA  )

Outperform

**

20 points

AMR (NYSE: AMR  )

Outperform

**

21 points



And a couple that have held the firm back:

Goldman Says:

CAPS Says:

Goldman's Pick Lagging S&P by:

MasterCard

(NYSE: MA  )

Underperform

***

41 points

Symantec

(Nasdaq: SYMC  )

Outperform

**

19 points



Despite making a spectacularly boneheaded call on where the price of oil was going last year ("to the moon"), Goldman has done a good job of figuring out what cheaper oil means to alternative energy companies and jet-fuel burners alike. That suggests the firm may know what it's talking about when it says that lower oil costs will keep P&G moving higher. It just would have been nice if Goldman had figured this out a bit sooner.

Who does understand P&G? You may be surprised to learn that the highest-rated CAPS player on the stock isn't an investment bank at all. Click here to find out who knows Procter & Gamble best.

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 currently ranked 104 out of nearly 20,000 raters. MasterCard and Symantec are Motley Fool Inside Value choices. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Income Investor picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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