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.
A percent here, a percent there ... pretty soon, you're talking real money
Raise your hand if you're earning better than 1% interest on your bank account. Most of you? Good. So how about 2%? Still a few hands up, I see. 3%? Only one hand left -- lucky stiff. But what would you do if I told you could earn not 1%, 2%, or 3% ... but nearly 6%, plus another 20% in a year -- and get it all taxed at preferential rates?
Personally, I'd jump at the chance, but according to Citigroup, you should pass. That's essentially what the Wall Street megabanker told investors considering General Motors
Only on Wall Street
At first glance, this looks a lot like any run-of-the-mill downgrade. Citi isn't as hot for GM as it used to be. Big whoop. The analyst also slashed price targets for a whole slew of related companies, including Ford
But look a little closer at the numbers on GM in particular: Right now, the stock sells for 17 bucks and change. Take that up to $32, as Citi used to think likely, and you'd have yourself nearly a double. But raise GM to "only" $21, as Citi now predicts -- and you've still got yourself more than a 20% profit... plus nearly 6% more in dividends. And with long-term capital gains and dividend tax rates still in effect, all of this gets taxed at 15%.
Yet Citi still thinks you're better off getting 2% on your savings account and seeing it taxed as "ordinary income," than putting your money in GM stock and earning 26% profit at a better tax rate. Only on Wall Street could this make sense.
Analysts say the craziest things
But that's not even the weirdest thing about yesterday's downgrade. According to Citi, "the GM restructuring and product development story" offers long-term upside. Like 26%? (Yeah, I'd say so -- if Citi even believes its own numbers.)
Citi thinks 26% isn't enough upside to justify buying GM. OK. But just last week, it said just the opposite about Texas Instruments
Leave your calculators on your desks -- I've done the math for you. Add in TI's dividend, and Citi said you should buy it for 24% upside, but ignore GM with 26%.
When analysts like Citi employ these kinds of double standards, is there any wonder the vast majority of them fail to outperform the market?