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 ...
Teutonic megabanker Deutsche Securities weighed in on Spirit Aerosystems (NYSE:SPR) this morning ... and the analyst's sentiments are already weighing on the shares. What's more, fearing that a global recession will have disproportionate impact on the commercial aerospace sector, Deutsche didn't stop with Spirit. The banker also downgraded shares of Goodrich (NYSE:GR), Boeing (NYSE:BA), Rolls Royce, and BAE.

What has Deutsche feeling nervous about everybody? According to the analyst, this is a "geared play on GDP." Translated, this means that Deutsche is starting with an assumption of some negative GDP growth, noting that "air traffic, historically, underperforms gross domestic product during economic downturns," and predicting a greater percentage fall in commercial air traffic -- 3.5% in 2009. The analyst then proceeds to assume that less traffic means less need for airplanes, and accordingly, airplane parts-makers like Spirit.

Let's go to the tape
Sounds logical, right? But before we give Deutsche too much credence on this pick, let's take a look at the CAPS ledger. What we find there is that, according to CAPS tracking, Deutsche tends to get about 56% of its guesses wrong over time, with the result that its average pick underperforms the market by nearly 3.4 percentage points. Here's a quick look at a how a few of its other sell ratings are panning out:


Deutsche Said:

CAPS Says:

Deutsche's Pick Beating (Lagging) S&P 500 by:

Suntech Power (NYSE:STP)



32 points

Capital One (NYSE:COF)



1 point




(18 points)

Ford (NYSE:F)



(40 points)

Now let's flip that tape to the B side
So Deutsche's far from perfect, no one's arguing that. But here's something you might not have known: historically, analysts have been far slower to assign a stock a "sell" rating than a "buy," and Deutsche is no exception. Out of its 451 active picks being tracked by CAPS right now, only 47 -- just a bit more than 10% -- are sell ratings. And guess what?

When it comes to picking losers, Deutsche's actually better than average. Sure, overall the banker's scoring only a 44% record for accuracy on all its picks, but it's batting .532 on sell recommendations, going 25 for 47. Apparently, discretion is the better part of stock analysis, because on those rare occasions when Deutsche plays the bear, it's more often right than wrong.

Like today
I don't like to kick an industry when it's down, but it seems to me that Deutsche is right on the money about Spirit Aerosystems. Sure, I realize that the stock carries a measly 3.5 P/E. And yes, I understand that most analysts expect Spirit to grow its profits at 11% per year over the long term. The resulting 0.32 PEG ratio sure looks cheap.

But in my view, that PEG's a crock, and Spirit's a value trap. Why? Quite simply, because whatever the GAAP numbers may be telling you, Spirit's not really profitable, and it never has been. According to the Fool's data provider, Capital IQ, Spirit hasn't generated a penny of free cash flow on a trailing 12-month basis since its first reported period, the year ending 12/29/05. And if it wasn't able to do this before the recession struck, suffice it to say I'm less than convinced things will turn up in the middle of a global economic downturn.

Foolish takeaway
To my mind, a company which finds it difficult to generate cash profits isn't worth a thing. I won't be buying these shares.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.