This Just In: More Upgrades and Downgrades

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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.

Chips and dips
Bad news for semiconductor investors out of Wall Street this morning: According to the analysts at The Benchmark Company, "an upward inflection in a semiconductor mini cycle is already priced into the sector." As such, the chances we'll see outperformance at companies like Broadcom (NAS: BRCM) or Marvell Technology (NAS: MRVL) -- even if they report good news -- look bleak.

According to Benchmark, the best time to buy these chip names was when the "fear factor [was] greatest." Presumably, this was back around November, when investors began to suspect the impact that flooding in Thailand would have on hard drive sales by Western Digital and Seagate (NAS: STX) -- and how it would dampen demand for computer chips in consequence. Or even in December, when Intel confirmed that lowered PC production would cost it as much as $1 billion in quarterly sales.

November or December. Not today. Today, according to Benchmark, it's time to downgrade Marvell and Broadcom. Time to pull back, count your winnings, and wait for optimism to wane.

Or is it?
"Not so!" replies FBR Capital. "Au contraire, mon frere!" At the same time as its brother analyst is downgrading chips stocks, FBR tells investors it's time to double down, and matching actions to words, FBR this morning upgraded shares of graphics chip supremo NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) .

Looking ahead to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona later this month, FBR predicts we will see "new wins" for NVIDIA's Tegra 3 mobile chip. According to FBR, NVIDIA's new chip edged out Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) in the competition to power LG's new X3 smartphone, and the HTC Edge as well.

NVIDIA looks N-viting
So who's right, FBR or Benchmark? Lacking a mole in the smartphone development offices at either LG or HTC, I'm afraid I can't give you any insight into whether FBR is right about the design wins there. What I can tell you is that I've recently looked at all three of these newly upgraded/downgraded stocks, and from where I sit, NVIDIA is clearly the best bargain of the bunch.

Priced at 15.5 times earnings, NVIDIA costs less than Broadcom, and only a bit more than Marvell. Meanwhile, NVIDIA's projected long-term growth rate of 16.1% is nearly half again as good as Marvell's, which to me makes it worth the extra point or two of P/E.

Best of all, NVIDIA boasts more than $2.7 billion worth of cash and equivalents, negligible debt, and an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of just 12 times. If you ask me, the stock already looks like a bargain if NVIDIA can get anywhere near the 16% growth target the Street has set for it. Add in a couple of surprise design wins from Barcelona, and it could blow consensus analyst estimates right out of the water.

That's why I own NVIDIA. That's why I've picked NVIDIA to outperform on Motley Fool CAPS. And that's why I continue to recommend it still. (Think I'm wrong? Follow along.)

And if you really want to strike it rich, take a look at the Fool's new report on three other winners of the  iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution. Read the Fool's new report on the industry -- for free! -- right here.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorRich Smithdoes not own (or short) shares of any company named above.You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handleTMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 386 out of more than 180,000 members. The Motley Foolhas adisclosure policy.The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Western Digital, Intel, and Marvell Technology Group.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Intel and NVIDIA.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended writing puts in NVIDIA.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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