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 ...
On Tuesday, brokerage house AG Edwards upgraded the stock of braumeister Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) from "hold" to "buy." (If the archives at briefing.com are to be believed, that's the first change in Edwards' position since December 2001. And you thought brokers couldn't play buy-'n'-hold!)

Why the sudden optimism? A-B's stock surged from $48 to nearly $52 over the past three months, on rumors that the company was about to be taken private. With those rumors now subsiding, Edwards argues that the stock is now "cheap." In addition to highlighting international growth prospects in China (which, by law, every analyst must include when making a buy recommendation), Edwards sees "improved volume growth trends" here at home as a significant positive for the stock.

But does Edwards know what it's talking about? After all, A-B stock was selling for this same $48 price tag three months ago, but the analyst didn't call it "cheap" back then.

To help us get a better feel for whether Edwards knows its stuff, we turn to CAPS to check its record. There we find that the company scores a most respectable 97.17 rating, good enough to put it in the top 3% of CAPS players. To earn this rating, Edwards has had to make some really fine picks. For example:

Company

Edwards Says:

CAPS
Says:
(5 Stars
Max)

Edwards'
Pick
Beating
S&P by:

Essex (NASDAQ:KEYW)

Outperform

**

54 points

Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ)

Outperform

****

22 points

Micron Technology (NYSE:MU)

Underperform

***

13 points

Gap (NYSE:GPS)

Underperform

*

10 points



Yet despite these successes, Edwards falls short of the coveted "Wall Street's Best" status, reserved for the best professional firms on CAPS. Why? Because of picks like these:

Company

Edwards Says:

CAPS
Says:

Edwards'
Pick
Lagging
S&P by:

BP (NYSE:BP)

Outperform

***

13 points

EMC (NYSE:EMC)

Outperform

****

4 points



In which of the above tables will Edwards' Anheuser-Busch pick be appearing in five years' time? My money is on Edwards booking a win on this one -- and not just because the firm has a good record itself, but also because it's in good company.

You see, in addition to liking the stock, Edwards enjoys the favor of Motley Fool Inside Value lead analyst and MarketWatch-proclaimed value "guru" Philip Durell. In his December update to Inside Value members, Philip mused that A-B's recent acquisition of Rolling Rock, combined with its new status as exclusive U.S. distributor of InBev's premium European brands such as Beck's and Bass Ale, will boost its sales volume. As a result, A-B can more efficiently use its capacity -- and that creates the prospect of not just volume gains, but gains in operating margin as well.

Philip also addressed the Moody's downgrade -- troubling to some -- of A-B's debt in response to the firm's plan to reduce its "cash-flow-to-total-debt target" (a euphemism for the firm's plans to take on additional debt.) According to Philip, this move will permit A-B to "more aggressively repurchase its shares -- shares I believe are significantly undervalued."

So let's tally up the results, shall we? Edwards likes Anheuser-Busch. Philip recommends it in Inside Value. And by all indications, A-B itself finds its shares so undervalued that it's planning to take on some more debt in an effort to buy them, even though it risks a tongue-lashing from Moody's in the process. That's three for three in my book.

Want to make it four for four? Head on over to CAPS, and if you agree with Edwards, Philip, and the King of Beers itself, rate the company an outperformer. Hey, all of the cool kids are doing it -- at last report, the stock was getting the thumbs-up from nearly nine out of 10 CAPS players.

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 25 out of nearly 24,000 raters. Moody's and Gap are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Gap is also an Inside Value choice. The Fool has a disclosure policy.