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." Today, we'll show you whether those bigwigs actually know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS to track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and worst.

Bank of America fires up Freeport
When one of the biggest names in investment banking recommends buying the biggest name in shiny rocks-excavation, I listen up. According to Bank of America, global metals-mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX) only costs $55 a share today, but it's actually worth $75.

Why? First, B of A loves Freeport for its efforts to "increase its exposure" to the copper market. According to Bloomberg, China -- already the world's biggest purchaser of copper -- needs more than ever before. This year alone, Chinese copper demand is expected to surge 8%, "depleting global supplies and boosting prices." Citing research from China's Wanxiang Resources Co., Bloomberg warns that "China is short of refined copper, short of scrap copper, short of copper concentrate." Demand for the metal leapt 13% last year, and is well on its way to another jump this year. Already, copper prices have risen 44% in 12 months on the London market.

But rising copper's not the only reason to like the stock.

Gold: the other coppery metal
Higher copper demand could certainly help Freeport catch up to rivals Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO), Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM), and Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO), which all boast better gross margins on production. But demand among investors for a company's stock matters just as much to its success, and here, Freeport simply shines.

As my Foolish colleague Dan Dzombak reported earlier today, our CAPS supercomputer currently ranks Freeport the No. 1 "most-watched" gold stock on the planet. It's more popular than two other companies with "gold" in their name: Goldcorp (NYSE: GG) and Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY). It's more than twice as popular as fourth-place finisher AuRico Gold (NYSE: AUQ). Statistics like these suggest that any good news Freeport has to report may have an outsize effect on investors' purchases of the stock -- and thus, on the profits from owning it.

Popular is good. Cheap is better.
Of course, to reap those rewards, first you have to buy Freeport. Luckily, it's selling for a good price today.

Just look at the stock's modest P/E ratio of 11. Of the miners named above, only Rio costs less. Since Wall Street expect Freeport to grow earnings at 15% per year over the next five years, 11 times earnings is an incredibly cheap price -- and even cheaper than it looks.

According to the Fool's data provider, Capital IQ, Freeport doesn't even report the full amount of its cash profit as "net income" on its earnings statement. Over the past 12 months, Freeport has claimed GAAP earnings of only $4.9 billion, even as it generated more than $5.1 billion in free cash flow.

Foolish takeaway
Based on these numbers, you can argue Freeport that is actually selling for only 10 times free cash flow -- while growing at 15%, and paying a tidy 1.8% dividend yield to boot. And it's playing to insatiable demand for copper consumption in China. And it's the most popular gold stock on the planet.

Sound like a good buy thesis to you? It does to Bank of America -- and I agree.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own (nor is he short) shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 568 out of more than 170,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.