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 ...
Warren Buffett may like train-sets so much that he "bought the company," but as we learned last week, not everybody's a fan of the railroad industry. On Wednesday, star stock picker Stifel Nicolaus climbed out on a limb and plucked its buy ratings on both Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) and Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP), reducing each stock to a "hold" rating. Two days later, Raymond James followed suit, downgrading both stocks to "market perform."

While both analysts are currently keeping mum on their reasons for the downgrades, I don't think it takes a Wall Street wizard to figure this out: Both stocks have enjoyed strong gains in recent months, rising 26% and 37% respectively over the past 52 weeks, and beating the S&P 500's returns with a stick. When Mr. Market hands you a profit, sometimes the best thing to do is take it and back away quickly, before he realizes his mistake.

But is it a mistake to be downgrading these Canadian stocks today? After all, just last week their southern cousin, America's CSX (NYSE: CSX) had a boffo box office day, reporting 16% year-over-year revenue growth -- and an increase in profits three times as large. What's more, in the course of discussing CSX's results last week, fellow Fool Christopher Barker happened to mention one railroad that's done even better than CSX, a railroad that, in his words, sets the standard for "unparalleled efficiency" in rail. Its name: Canadian National Railway.

Why not buy the best?
That's the question that faces investors today, as the mull last week's twin downgrades. If Canadian National is the best railroad out there, why not buy it? Fortunately, I've got an answer handy for you:

Because it costs too much. Don't believe me? See for yourself:



Growth rate

Dividend Yield

Canadian National




CSX Corp




Canadian Pacific




Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP)




As for Canadian Pacific ... I'm a little more enthusiastic about that one. Here we see a chance to own not the slowest, but one of the fastest growing trainsets in the industry. (Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) is probably the fastest out there, growing at a 21% clip -- but with a P/E ratio proportionately higher.) Here, too, the P/E ratio is not excessive, and the dividend as fair as you'll find anywhere in the industry.

Foolish final thought(s)
Mind you, I'm not saying to rush right out and buy Canadian Pacific either. I don't at all like the fact that the company isn't generating cash flow sufficient to match its supposed GAAP "earnings." Honestly, about the best I can say about this stock looks to be the closest thing to a fair value in the industry.

Fact is, right about now I'm pretty down on transports across the board. Trains look pricey. Trucks look prici-er. Scan up and down the highway as long as the day is long -- I challenge you to find a brand-name trucker selling for less than a mid-20s P/E -- or growing faster than the mid-teens. JB Hunt, Landstar, Con-way, Knight -- these guys may not all be as bad off as the vastly unprofitable, perpetual analyst whipping boy YRC Worldwide (Nasdaq: YRCWD) -- but they're close.

To be perfectly honest, about the only transportation stock I'd even consider investing in right now is UPS (NYSE: UPS). To find out why ... click right here.

(And then here.)

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any stock named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 604 out of more than 170,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Canadian National Railway is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. United Parcel Service is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of United Parcel Service.

The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.