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 the best ...
The prize for strangest upgrade of the week so far goes to Capital One Southcoast. Yesterday, the budding young analytical wing of credit card dispenser Capital One ventured back to the (oil) well and upgraded its view of contract oil-and-gas driller Todco (NYSE:THE). Why is that strange? Because just one day prior, the stock had leapt 20% in a day on news that fellow driller Hercules Offshore (NASDAQ:HERO) had agreed to acquire Todco for $2.3 billion in cash and stock.

If Capital One had made its upgrade on Friday, of course, we'd all be singing its praises right now and naming it most likely to be clairvoyant. As it is, the recommendation of a stock, whose market value appears to be fixed by a buyout price and incapable of moving much higher, just plain looks weird.

That said, it's hard to argue with success. And Capital One's been on a real hot streak of late. In February alone, it endorsed:

  • Seismic explorer and Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation Dawson Geophysical (NASDAQ:DWSN) right after a superb earnings release that sent the stock rocketing higher. Even though the stock had already jumped, Capital One rated it a buy -- and is up 18% on its pick in just a little more than one month.

  • GlobalSantaFe (NYSE:GSF), which, like Todco and Hercules, is a contract driller. That one's up 7% in a little more than a month.

  • Pipeline layer Global Industries (NASDAQ:GLBL). Capital One's best pick since we first began tracking it on CAPS is already up more than 26 points in less than a month.

  • And its sole laggard for the month -- oil, gas, and coal producer Penn Virginia (NYSE:PVA), which is down 2% over the past few weeks.

Plus, Capital One picked PetroQuest (NYSE:PQ) -- three guesses what this one does -- on Monday, notching yet another green ticker on its CAPS scorecard.

But the question we're asking today is whether Capital One jumped the shark on Tuesday with Todco, in betting that the stock, which, according to all logic, simply cannot move more than 6% higher in price before it merges with Hercules in mid-2007, will outperform the market.

I don't know about you, Fools, but I for one am impressed with the speed with which Capital One has evolved into an oil-industry expert. Not at all bad for a firm that, according to our CAPS records, still sports just a 66.01 rating, far behind its more illustrious Wall Street peers that we're also tracking, and behind a good 8,000-odd lay investors as well.

Maybe Capital One knows something we don't know. Perhaps it thinks that a near-guaranteed 6% return in three to four months is likely to outperform an already richly priced S&P 500. Or perhaps it sees a rival bidder on the horizon -- one that can put Todco in play and give investors in the company an even better premium to Friday's closing price than the one they already enjoy.

One thing's for sure: At Motley Fool CAPS, we'll be watching closely to see whether there's a method to Capital One's seeming madness. These guys have proved themselves simply too good to ignore.

Who else is too good to ignore? How about the CAPS investor with the best record yet on predicting Todco's outperformance? Click here to learn his (her?) identity.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 32 out of more than 24,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.