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 track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
What do you do when one of the best bankers in the market suddenly upgrades shares of one of the hottest stocks in the always-hot energy sector? Personally, I listen up. And from what I hear, ace stockpicker Stifel Nicolaus thinks Shaw Group (NASDAQ:SHAW) could go nuclear.

Predicting continued hikes in the price of oil as the dollar drops, Stifel says Shaw's "project backlog" looks secure. (Shaw builds the infrastructure for both fossil fuel power plants and nukes alike, for clients including Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Petrobras (NYSE:PBR), and General Electric (NYSE:GE).) What's more, according to Stifel, the stock "appears inexpensive versus peers with similar [return on invested capital], and as such we believe the operational improvements instituted by management are underappreciated." Factor in additional "revenue from Shaw's nuclear plant construction projects," and this undervalued stock rates a "buy" from Stifel.

But is that good enough to win it a place in your portfolio?

Let's go to the tape
It depends. Personally, when I look at Stifel's record in the Construction and Engineering sector ... and see that this analyst has historically gotten twice as many picks right as wrong ... and generally walloped the market in the process ...

 

Stifel Says

CAPS Says

Stifel's Picks Beating (Lagging) S&P by

Foster Wheeler (NASDAQ:FWLT)

Outperform

*****

55 points

Fluor Corp (NYSE:FLR)

Outperform

***

42 points

Chicago Bridge & Iron (NYSE:CBI)

Outperform

****

(3 points)

... well, I have to say -- I'm inclined to follow Stifel's lead on this one. Granted, past performance is no "guarantee" of success. But I personally feel a whole lot better when I see a successful investor like Stifel agree with my thinking.

You see, I too think that massive liquidity injections by the U.S. government are undermining the value of the U.S. dollar. And with oil being priced in dollars and all, well, this would suggest that oil prices are headed back up.

Valuation's the key
But if you're still worried about the lack of a guarantee that all of this will happen, then take comfort in the fact that whatever happens to oil prices tomorrow -- Shaw Group's share price is a steal today. Selling for an ultralow valuation of four times free cash flow, and expected to grow its profits at 17% per year over the next half decade, well, folks, bargains don't come much cheaper than this.

Add in the fact that Shaw is sitting on $700 million in net cash to help it across any bumps in the road, and I'm 100% in agreement with Stifel today. Shaw is the real deal.

Time to chime in
Now admittedly, Shaw Group's earnings report, due out Thursday, could cause this argument to blow up in Stifel's face (and mine) if the company reports some disastrous news.

I don't think that will happen, but maybe you do? Perhaps you disagree with the argument that the U.S. Dollar is doomed? Or maybe you think nuclear and fossil fuels are 20th century technology, overdue to be replaced by solar?

Whatever your objections to Shaw, we're listening. Click on over to Motley Fool CAPS and sound off.

Duke Energy and Petroleo Brasileiro are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating about stuff he does understand under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 739 out of more than 140,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.