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 its worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
Three of Wall Street's finest chimed in on the year's hottest IPO this morning. On Monday, each of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Cowen & Co., and Deutsche Securities initiated coverage of Visa (NYSE: V) with simultaneous "buy" ratings (or their equivalent).

Discounting the fact of "slowing economic growth in the U.S.," KBW and Cowen are placing their chips on a belief that "an increase in worldwide credit card use will lift Visa Inc. shares" (emphasis added.) Deutsche agrees with its colleagues on this point and further argues that the greater the growth in global credit transactions, the more Visa will benefit from "operating leverage" -- boosting its margins on the growing revenue base.

When bankers (don't) attack
The cynic in me initially suspected that this was just another case of the same people who bankrolled an IPO following it out into the Street to give it a push, so it would roll a little faster. But after digging into Visa's prospectus, I'm no longer so sure. While both KBW and Cowen played a part in underwriting the Visa IPO, Deutsche does not appear to have been involved.

What's more, KBW and Cowen played only bit parts in the IPO, having allotted less than a million shares each. So they have a lot less riding on the success of Visa shares than do headlining companies such as JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), UBS (NYSE: UBS), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Wachovia (NYSE: WB), or Citigroup (NYSE: C) -- each of which underwrote many, many times the size of KBW's and Cowen's allotments.

In short, while two of the three analysts upgrading Visa today may be biased, their bias is rather limited. Meanwhile, Deutsche doesn't seem to have so much as a Chihuahua in this fight -- so it's word should be good as gold.

Let's go to the tape
Problem is, "gold" is a rather volatile commodity. We're still left with the little matter of determining how much these analysts' words are worth. Turning to CAPS for a glimpse at their records, here's what we find:

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

  • CAPS rating: Um, "less than 20." Which is a gentle way of saying that KBW places in the bottom quintile of investors.
  • Accuracy: 42%

Cowen & Co.

  • CAPS rating: 61.06
  • Accuracy: 37%

Deutsche Securities

  • CAPS rating: 89.68
  • Accuracy: 52%

Foolish takeaway
So to sum up, we have three relatively unbiased (to a greater or less degree) investing minds, all of which agree that Visa's a buy at today's price. What's more, one of these analysts, Deutsche, is actually pretty good at its job.

In all, it's a bit short of a glowing endorsement. But even if, years from now, we look back and find these buy ratings were ill-considered, at least we'll have the comfort of knowing the analysts made a good-faith mistake.

More "everywhere you want to be" Foolishness:

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 ranked No. 1,645 out of more than 96,000 players. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.