Each weekday, TheStreet.com Ratings updates its ratings on the stocks it covers. The proprietary ratings model projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period, including both price appreciation and dividends. Buy, hold or sell ratings designate how the Ratings group expects these stocks to perform against a general benchmark of the equities market and interest rates.

While the ratings model is quantitative, it uses both subjective and objective elements. For instance, subjective elements include expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and company earnings forecasts. Objective elements include volatility of past operating revenue, financial strength and company cash flows.

Office products retailer OfficeMax ( OMX) has been downgraded to hold. While the company has shown growth in earnings per share, revenue and net income, it also has poor profit margins and weak operating cash flow. In May, OfficeMax swung to a first-quarter profit, but retail sales slipped and earnings fell short of Wall Street's forecasts. The gross profit margin for OfficeMax is currently lower than what is desirable, and net operating cash flow has significantly decreased. The company has been rated buy since May 2006.

Alliance One International ( AOI), which sells tobacco to cigarette makers, has been upgraded to hold. Although the company's stock has performed solidly and growth in earnings per share and net income are impressive, debt management and profit margins are generally poor. In June, Alliance One said fiscal fourth-quarter revenue sank 25.5% to $433.2 million, while 2007 sales, at $1.98 billion, came in below the only analyst's forecast. The company did report significant earnings-per-share improvement in the most recent quarter. It had been rated sell since June.

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