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 worst and sorriest, too.

Riddle me this
If Citigroup did breakfasts instead of banking, what would its trade name be?

"The International House of Waffles." Last week, I described this megabanker's quick about-face on Aflac (NYSE:AFL) -- from "sell" to "hold" and back down to "sell" in seven days flat. This morning, after a longer lag but on a larger scale, Citi reversed itself yet again on a whole series of homebuilder stocks.

Centex (NYSE:CTX), DR Horton (NYSE:DHI), Lennar (NYSE:LEN), Pulte (NYSE:PHM), and Ryland (NYSE:RYL) -- each of which Citigroup had upgraded to "buy" just last month -- are now considered "holds." About the only thing that rings of consistency in this morning's news was Citi's decision to continue downgrading Meritage Homes (NYSE:MTH), this time to "sell," after last month dropping it to "hold."

Mind you, I can't say I disagree with Citi's logic on these downgrades. Citing the "current overhang of resale inventory and subprime rate resets," the banker has lost faith in the companies' buy-ability "based on book value [that has] reached unprecedented levels." Instead, "there will need to be a modicum of good news before a sustainable rebound in the stocks can take shape."

Good news makes stocks go up? Gee. Go figure. But I am curious how this reasoning jibes with what Citi told us last month. In October, despite seeing no "near-term relief in industry fundamentals," Citi opined that "it is precisely when things have gotten this bad that the stocks start looking good," and urged investors to buy the stocks. And what happened next?


Citi's Pick Beating (Lagging) the S&P 500

CAPS Rating (out of 5)



4 points




2 points


DR Horton


(8 points)




(23 points)




(27 points)




(28 points)


So the one stock Citi went negative on last month, and the one stock that CAPS investors prefer to the others -- Meritage -- has turned in a best-in-show performance. And of the five stocks above that Citi told its clients to buy, only one beat the S&P 500's performance -- and even that one lost people money. Hmm. Seems to me the banker doesn't quite have the hang of this "market timing" thing.

It gets a Fool to wondering: Could it be that timing the market doesn't work as well as patiently investing time in the market?

Meritage Homes and Aflac are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations.

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. 736 out of more than 75,000 players. The Fool has a disclosure policy.