Rating Wall Street's Ratings for These 4 Stocks

Earnings season brings on a flurry of upgrades and downgrades, and it can be an all-day affair just to get through them all. Today we look at designer clothing, fast-food pizza, a controversial energy company, and a Web-based restaurant servicer. Should you pay attention to Wall Street's call?



Reaction as of 1 p.m. ET

True Religion (NAS: TRLG)

Upgraded from Above Average to Buy, with price target of $38

Up almost 6%

Papa John's (NAS: PZZA)

Upgraded from Sell to Hold

Up almost 20%

Chesapeake Energy (NYS: CHK)

Downgraded from Outperform to Neutral

Down almost 13.5%

OpenTable (NAS: OPEN)

Reiterated Buy rating, with lowered price target of $45 from $50

Down a little under 20%

Source: Wall Street Journal Market Data Center.

True Religion
Caris & Company upgraded True Religion from Above Average to Buy.

  • Why? Caris, along with most of Wall Street, was impressed by True Religion's latest quarterly earnings report. The designer-jean company beat up on estimates on the top and bottom lines.

  • Justified? Yes. True Religion is growing the way you want to see a young retailer grow. Same-store sales growth averaged up over 13% from the same quarter last year. The company is expanding, though not too quickly. The company plans to open 12 stores this year.

Papa John's
Feltl & Company upgraded Papa John's from Sell to Hold.

  • Why? The company beat estimates and raised its outlook for 2012.

  • Justified? Yes. Papa John's is the industry winner right now. Closest competitor Domino's fell flat on earnings and disappointed investors. Papa John's is showing nice growth abroad, with same-store sales numbers up almost 9%.

Chesapeake Energy
Ladenburg Thalman downgraded Chesapeake from Outperform to Neutral.

  • Why? The company had a disappointing earnings report and is now dealing with renewed conflicts with CEO Aubrey McClendon, who is stepping down as chairman.

  • Justified? Yes. "Neutral" is the key word here. The company will probably rebound from today's bludgeoning and in the long term will improve from its depressed status. For now, though, it's best to stay away from Chesapeake, long or short. As the investigation into McClendon's hedge fund continues, more bad news could easily percolate up.

The Benchmark Company reiterated its Buy rating on OpenTable, with a revised price target of $45 from $50.

  • Why? Though the company beat analyst estimates on EPS, revenues and outlook were lowered.

  • Justified? No. The lowered price target is the right idea, but OpenTable is not a buy. The company has not yet proved itself able to function in the international arena. Its recent foreign acquisition has not been a smooth transition, and analysts are questioning whether the company will be able to turn around its business abroad in the near to medium term.

Ratings are often based on short-term prospects and not relevant to the long-term investor. However, we can use them to dig up useful facts about a company we may not have seen before. It's important not to let the ratings themselves color your opinion of a company. As Fools often say, it's better to do the research yourself and come to your own conclusions. Keep an eye on this series to stay in the know and save the rest of your day for coffee and Facebook.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorMichael Lewisowns no shares of the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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