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 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 worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best...
It's been nearly three weeks since Target (NYSE:TGT) issued its sales warning, advising investors to expect September same-store sales of just a fraction of the previously predicted 5% rise. But apparently adopting a just-in-time delivery philosophy on its downgrades, Piper Jaffray waited until yesterday, just a few hours before major retailers from Abercrombie to Zumiez are due to report their September results, to pull its "outperform" rating on the stock.

Why wait so long to stake out a position on the stock? Presumably because Piper spent the last few weeks doing its homework -- earning the fees it charges its clients by performing sales channels checks they're ill-equipped to do, firming up its own idea of just how bad today's news will be. As I write these words, that news is not yet "news," but by the time you read them, we should all know whether Piper was prescient or overly pessimistic in downgrading Target ahead of its sales report. More important than this short-term win/loss, however, is whether Target turns out to be a buy in the long term. Piper used to think it was. Now it no longer does. The question we ask today is how likely is it that the analyst will be proved right.

Let's go to the tape
Sadly, Piper's record is pretty mixed in that regard. While the firm holds a respectable 73.26 CAPS rating, its record for accuracy leaves something to be desired -- Piper calls fewer than half its picks right. Drilling down from the general statistics to its record on retail stocks in particular, we find much the same story. Piper's made some good calls ...

Company

Piper Said:

CAPS Says (out of 5):

Piper's Pick Beating S&P by:

Chico 's FAS (NYSE:CHS)

Underperform

***

42 points

Costco (NASDAQ:COST)

Outperform

****

19 points

AnnTaylor (NYSE:ANN)

Outperform

**

12 points

... as well as some very bad ones:

Company

Piper Said:

CAPS Says:

Piper's Pick Lagging S&P by:

Wet Seal (NASDAQ:WTSLA)

Outperform

**

63 points

Citi Trends (NASDAQ:CTRN)

Outperform

**

51 points

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP)

Outperform

**

19 points

Foolish takeaway
When it comes to Target, though, much as I'd like to mock Piper's record (oh, what the heck -- ha, ha!), I actually agree with the analyst on this one. Not because of any short-term fear of what news Target will bring to us today. Rather, because I think the shares are priced just a bit too richly.

With a trailing P/E of 19, Target isn't glaringly overvalued, but neither is it a screaming buy. Analysts, on average, only expect the firm to grow its profits at about 15% per year over the next five years. That works out to a PEG of about 1.3. For a superb retailer such as Target, that price seems fair to me, and I wouldn't go selling the stock just because it's a bit on the expensive side. But for this Fool to become an actual buyer of the shares, I'd demand a discount that the shares currently don't offer.

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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 No. 5,935 out of more than 37,000 ranked players. The Fool has a disclosure policy.