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." In our recurring column, "This Just In," we cover the most headline-worthy upgrades and downgrades, testing the analysts' logic and examining their records to help you decide whether they're worth listening to at all.

In "Get to Know a Guru," we go another route. Here, we use upgrade and downgrade news as a springboard to introduce you to some of the lesser-known names in analyst-land. Up this week: Canaccord Adams.

Profiles in punditry
As the month of August rolled to a close, an unfamiliar name (to me, at least) popped up on MSN Money's tally of analyst downgrades on Friday. A firm called "Canaccord Adams" initiated coverage of Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Omniture (NASDAQ:OMTR) with a buy rating. If you're wondering just who the heck Canaccord Adams is, and what it knows about Internet analytics companies, you're not alone.

Get to know this guru
Here's what Motley Fool CAPS has to say about today's contestant:

Canaccord Adams is an independent financial services firm with operations in research, sales and trading, and investment banking. The research team is composed of 48 international analysts who focus on emerging small to mid cap growth companies. Over 550 companies are covered in the following industries of expertise: mining and metals, energy, technology, life sciences, real estate and gaming, and consumer and industrial growth.

Canaccord Adams is based in London. But as you may have guessed from the name, it's actually the subsidiary of a Canadian banker, Canaccord Capital (itself based in Vancouver), and was previously known by the more familiar name of "Adams Harkness," which Canaccord Capital acquired last year. Canaccord Adams has also been around the block more than a few times. In its Adams Harkness incarnation, the firm dates to 1969. But Adams Harkness was itself formed from the merger of two existing shops in that year, Weston W. Adams & Company and Harkness & Hill.

Are these guys any good?
So much for the firm's biography. We really want to know about its resume. When Canaccord Adams speaks, should investors listen?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no -- but mostly "no." Judging from its record as tracked by CAPS, Canaccord is a middling equity analyst at best. With 75 actively tracked picks to its name, and a long history of experience under its belt, the best the company seems able to manage is a 69.29 CAPS rating, and an accuracy record of 49% -- meaning it gets more of its calls wrong than right.

For example:

Canaccord Adams Says:

CAPS Says:

Canaccord Adams' Pick Lagging S&P by:

Goldcorp (NYSE:GG)



18 points

Cameco (NYSE:CCJ)



17 points




2 points

See a pattern there? Let's sketch it out a bit further with a few of Canaccord Adams's winners:

Canaccord Adams Says:

CAPS Says:

Canaccord Adams' Pick Beating S&P by:




120 points




22 points

Rackable Systems (NASDAQ:RACK)



15 points

Separating the analyst from the analyzed
Having trouble spotting the pattern here? When it comes to high tech, Canaccord does a superb job of picking winners. But when Canaccord delves into the earth to pick mining companies, it hits bedrock and loses points.

The firm's proficiency at picking high-tech stocks, therefore, may belie its overall anemic performance on CAPS, suggesting that Canaccord may be right about Omniture. Reviewing the logic behind the firm's buy recommendation, we find that it relies heavily on scale. Specifically, the firm says that Omniture is already 70% bigger (by revenue) than its nearest competitor. And Omniture is rapidly getting bigger, increasing its client list by 14% sequentially last quarter.

Canaccord also sees an opportunity for Omniture to grow bigger, faster, should it purchase rival Visual Sciences (NASDAQ:VSCN) -- on which Canaccord also initiated coverage last week, and which it also rated a buy. Such a purchase would increase Omniture's client base by 64% overnight. (Incidentally, I can tell you right now that if Omniture does bid for Visual Sciences, and if the Street sells off Omniture on fears that it is overpaying -- Canaccord will tell you to use this as a buying opportunity.)

Foolish takeaway: I say "nay"
We began this column with a reason to discount Canaccord's buy recommendation on Omniture. Then we looked at a reason to believe it. Let me close with my own opinion. The reason I vote "nay" on Canaccord's recommendation has less to do with its skill at picking successful companies, and more to do with Omniture's increasing price tag in recent months. Since David Gardner recommended the stock to our members at Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Omniture has more than doubled in value. It currently sports a negative P/E, and it sells for 143 times trailing free cash flow. Granted, analysts on average expect the firm to grow its profits at a barn-burning 41% annual pace over the next five years -- but the stock is already more than priced for such perfection.

In a nutshell, that's why I say to stay away.

Having picked a "double" in 10 months with Omniture, does David Gardner agree with Rich that the stock is now fully priced, or would he side with Canaccord and advise buying more? Sign up for a free trial of Stock Advisor, read his latest update, and find out.

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 No. 308 out of more than 60,000 ranked players. Garmin is a Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.