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 and worst ...
Boeing
(NYSE:BA) shareholders are ringing in the new year in very good cheer, as a pair of analyst upgrades lift the shares 3% after the three-and-a-half-day trading hiatus. But let this be a lesson to the SEC: Never give Wall Street bankers 90+ hours of uninterrupted quiet time, because they're apt to put it to bad use.

Let's go to the tape
Taking the bankers in alphabetical order, we begin with Barclays Capital. Now, by all accounts, Barclays is a bang-up banker in many respects. It's had particularly good luck in the energy services sector, placing winning bets on standout companies like National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) last year. But Barclays has been less successful above the ground than beneath it:

Companies

Barclays Says:

CAPS Says:

Barclays's Picks Beating
(Lagging) S&P by:

United Technologies (NYSE:UTX)

Outperform

****

21 points

Goodrich (NYSE:GR)

Outperform

*****

9 points

AMR Corp (NYSE:AMR)

Outperform

*

(10 points)

Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL)

Outperform

*

(34 points)

As the table above reflects, Barclays has done well at picking plane parts' manufacturers (scoring 66% for accuracy in the aerospace sector) -- but not so well judging trends among the plane operators. And as we'll see in a moment, that's a disturbing trend, but not one unique to Barclays.

Because the other analyst upgrading Boeing today is the lamentable Jesup & Lamont. Here we find a true bumbler in the cockpit, and one with an almost unbroken record of failure in all things aerodynamic. Pick an airline, any airline, and chances are J&L has recommended buying it … and been wrong:

Companies

J&L Says:

CAPS Says:

J&L's Picks Lagging S&P by:

Delta Air Lines

Outperform

*

18 points

Continental Airlines

Outperform

*

29 points

AMR Corp.

Outperform

*

35 points

US Airways

Outperform

*

73 points

(Actually, it gets worse; unlike its rival, J&L hasn't been particularly lucky among the plane manufacturers, either. More than 60% of its guesses there go awry, with Ducommun, Precision Castparts, and BE Aerospace all ranking among J&L's losers.)

They love to fly (but don't know how ... and it shows)
So when Jesup & Lamont came out this morning and told us that it was holding its 2010 revenue estimates for Boeing steady, lowering its earnings projection 9%, but upgrading the shares anyway … well, you'll understand why I reached for and attempted to tighten an imaginary seatbelt. Scary.

You see, as J&L explains it, the purpose of this upgrade is to get "in front of the curve" on Boeing. The analyst believes that "the industry has now stabilized and show signs of recovery." And yet, the numbers J&L produces in support of this thesis suggest otherwise. For example, J&L thinks Boeing will earn only $4.02 per share in 2010 ($0.38 less than it previously expected). It predicts Boeing will grow these earnings to $4.18 in 2011 -- hence the "recovery."

But consider: $4.18 in 2011 is still significantly less than J&L previously thought Boeing would earn in 2010. It represents only 4% year-over-year growth -- below the consensus estimate of 7% long-term growth for Boeing. And if J&L is right, it would still leave the stock trading for 13 times earnings.

Foolish takeaway
All of this, in J&L's mind, adds up to make Boeing its "top pick in commercial aerospace," depriving its previously endorsed Goodrich of that honor. (This despite Goodrich's more attractive 12.5 trailing P/E ratio and faster 11% projected growth rate.)

So I ask you: Does this make sense to anybody?

Seriously. That's not a rhetorical question. I know the 787 Dreamliner is supposed to be the best thing since sliced carbon composite bread -- but does the valuation justify a buy rating? Maybe the firm's still-strong defense division is enough to make up the difference?

Crunch the numbers yourself, and tell us why (or why not) below.

National Oilwell Varco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Fool contributor Rich Smith is currently "between brokers," and has no position in any stocks, named above or otherwise. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 1,096 out of more than 145,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.