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This Just In: Upgrades and Downgrades

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/07/09/this-just-in-upgrades-and-downgrades.aspx

Anders Bylund
July 9, 2012

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." While the pinstripe-and-wingtip crowd is entitled to its opinions, down here on Main Street, we've got some pretty sharp stock pickers, too. (And we're not always impressed with how Wall Street does its job.)

Given that, perhaps we shouldn't be giving virtual ink to "news" of analyst upgrades and downgrades. And we wouldn't -- if that were all we were doing. Fortunately, in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We 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 track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

Nomura Securities has been bearish on European telecom stocks, but the gloom is lifting: The firm just upgraded the sector as a whole to "hold." Let's dig into the details of this wide-ranging call.

Painting the market in broad strokes
Less than a month ago, Nomura posted an update on Spanish telephony giant Telefonica (NYSE: TEF  ) . The sell rating was kept in place because the firm wasn't ready to "call a bottom in the stock." Telefonica's exposure to the shaky Spanish economy was simply too much.

But this week, the risk-reward ratio turned positive for Nomura. European stocks in general still look risky due to "the level of policy uncertainty that prevails," which makes defensive strategies too pricey to be worth the risk. But pouring assets into stocks with high dividend yields and strong cash flows, such as the telecom sector, is a whole 'nother ballgame.

More specifically, Nomura listed Telefonica, France Telecom (NYSE: FTE  ) , and Telecom Italia (NYSE: TI  ) among the high-yield communications giants that look modestly attractive right now. All of these stocks have underperformed the general market by a wide margin over the last year: 52-week returns range from -26% for Telecom Italia to a heart-stopping -47% for the Spanish operator. These rock-bottom prices both increase the dividend yield and lower investment risks, as long as the companies' fundamentals remain solid.

The wisdom of the crowds
Does our CAPS community agree with Nomura's take on European telecoms? Let's take a look:

Company

1-Year Return

Dividend Yield

CAPS Score
(out of 5)

Telefonica