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 worst ...
Credit Suisse, the Swiss-est of Swiss bankers, came down off the fence yesterday to upgrade shares of both Lowe's
Why this sudden spurt of optimism? Admittedly, Credit Suisse believes that we're staring down the barrel of a "deep consumer recession ... [that] will continue through mid 2009." Regardless, both Home Depot and Lowe's boast "strong cash flows" that will enable them to ride out the rough economic seas. Meanwhile, "macroeconomic weakness" will cause their less cash-robust rivals to founder and sink, reducing competitive pressures on Big Orange and Baby Blue.
Um, hold up a sec
To which I can only respond: What competitive pressures? Has Joe's Hardware and Dry Goods been stealing market share from Home Depot? Is the local Grain & Supply undercutting Lowe's on price?
I have to say, I'm at a loss as to just what "competition" Credit Suisse thinks has been holding these retailers back. I mean, sure, some big-name firms compete tangentially with HD and Lowe's -- Craftsman tools at Sears
Has someone been sampling the Kool-Aid?
Of further interest is Credit Suisse's curious prediction that: "Whether through foreclosures or through price declines, the housing market seems to be near a bottom" -- another factor that may explain the analyst's optimistic view of home improvement. It reminds me of similar comments from Home Depot CEO Frank Blake last month: "We don't think we're at the bottom yet, but we think you can see it from here."
It took just a few short weeks for Mr. Market to call the sharpness of Mr. Blake's vision into question.
But back to Credit Suisse
Before I close, I want to point out one final reason to doubt Credit Suisse's acumen in this matter. You know the line: "Past performance is no guarantee of future success"? Well, truer words were never spoken about Credit Suisse -- because its past performance is truly abysmal.
After tracking the performance of its stock picks for more than two years now, we can conclude with some confidence that this banker consistently guesses wrong (54%) more often than right. As a result, Credit Suisse underperforms some 80% of the investors CAPS tracks.
Once all that data has been factored in, I rather suspect Credit Suisse will want to reconsider yesterday's upgrades. As for myself, I've already considered, and rejected, them.
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. 1650 out of more than 115,000 players. Wal-Mart Stores, Sears Holdings, and The Home Depot are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool has a disclosure policy.