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 better... and worst...
For better or worse, shareholders of Suntech Power (NYSE:STP) found themselves the proud owners of another downgrade yesterday. Of course, no one likes to see their company panned on Wall Street, and the more analysts harp on the issue of falling "average selling prices" in solar, the more credible the negative sentiments become. But why might this news also be "better" than we think?

Because the analyst jumping on the "solar-bashing" bandwagon this time is Ardour Capital.

Um, who?
If you've never heard of Ardour, well, no surprise there. It's hardly a household name. But at Motley Fool CAPS, we've been tracking this analyst's performance for nearly two years now. Forgive me for being blunt, but it just isn't very good at its job.

New York-based Ardour claims to focus its efforts on alternative energy resources, with additional coverage of the related "green energy" sectors. But although it's picked a couple of winners here and there -- racking up big gains on American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC) in the energy distribution field, for example -- its record in solar is clear: Ardour is flailing:


Ardour Said:

CAPS Says:

Ardour's Pick Lagging S&P by:

MEMC Electronic (NYSE:WFR)



5 points

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)



6 points




17 points

Evergreen Solar  (NASDAQ:ESLR)



31 points

Trina Solar  (NYSE:TSL)



42 points

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Data as of Jan. 20.

Winners and losers
Now maybe you say -- hey, that's not news. Everybody's losing money on solar these days. But here's the thing: Not everybody is losing money on solar. Some firms figured out the solar power trend early, and are still sitting on fat profits despite the sector's recent fall from grace.

Prescient stock pickers at First Albany, Cowen & Co., and Piper Jaffray are each sitting on gains of 400-plus points from First Solar. But Johnny-come-lately Ardour, which tried to hop on the solar bus a little too late, got run over instead -- losing money on one of the greatest stock stories of the New Millennium.

Suntech under a cloud
And now, here comes Ardour, tire tracks down its back, and tells us it's time to dump Suntech -- a stock it had previously recommended "accumulating." (Investors who followed that initial advice are underperforming the market by more than 46 points.) Should we listen to Ardour again?

Personally, I'm torn. Suntech's consistent inability to generate free cash flow and sizeable debt load still worry me. But considering that "market timing" doesn't seem to be Ardour's forte, here's a thought from the sunnier side of the street: Suntech currently trades for a P/E of less than 8, yet analysts expect it to grow the "E" in that equation by nearly 20% per year over the next half-decade.

By some indications, Fools, that's an exceedingly cheap price. So leery as I am of actually buying Suntech, I have to say: This seems a strange time for Ardour to advise selling.

Looking for a stock that's more than a fair-weather friend? Check out Motley Fool Rule Breakers free for 30 days. There, you'll see Suntech Power and several other potentially high-growth picks by David Gardner and team.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find Rich on CAPS, shamelessly disagreeing with Fools smarter than he, under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 1,215 out of more than 125,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.