Each business day, 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.

However, the rating does not incorporate all of the factors that can alter a stock's performance. For example, it doesn't always factor in recent corporate or industry events that could affect the stock price, nor does it include recent technology developments and competitive dynamics that may affect the company.

For those reasons, we believe a rating alone cannot tell the whole story, and that it should be part of an investor's overall research.

The following ratings changes are from Feb. 12.

Moody's ( MCO), a credit ratings company, has been downgraded to sell on poor fourth-quarter 2007 earnings.

For the quarter, total revenue fell 14% to $504.9 million year over year as demand for bond and securities ratings lagged due to credit-market weakness and a rise in subprime defaults. Over the same period, net income declined 54% to $127.3 million.

Moody's expects the challenging market condition to continue to affect its financial performance. It forecasts a low-double-digit revenue decline. Earnings per share are likewise expected to decrease 13% to 16% from fiscal 2007 to a range of $2.17 to $2.25.

Ratings agencies, including Moody's, are accused of abetting the subprime crisis by providing overly optimistic ratings for packages of subprime mortgages and failing to quickly downgrade these bonds. This investigation could result in a substantial financial liability.

To improve its condition, Moody's has initiated a business restructuring strategy and has made acquisitions. This, coupled with improvement in the economy and the debt market, could improve the company's financial performance. Moody's had been rated hold since May 7.

NutriSystem ( NTRI), a weight management and fitness products company, has been downgraded to hold. Weaknesses include short-term competitive pressure and the impact of weak economic conditions on new customer growth. However, the company should benefit from its growth initiatives and ample market opportunity.

Demand for NutriSystem's products has waned thanks to a new over-the-counter weight loss pill, GlaxoSmithKline's ( GSK) Alli. New customer growth declined 7.2% in the third quarter of 2007, and the company expects the figure to fall 20% in the fourth quarter. Further, a weak economy could curb customer spending on the $10-per-day diet program.

Though revenue increased 21% year over year to $188.3 million, net income declined 4.9%. NutriSystem continued to invest in its Web site to aid customer retention and launched the NutriSystem Advanced program, which it believes will help revenue. U.S spending on diet products and programs is expected to reach $61 billion by 2008, up from $47 billion in 2004. We believe that the company faces growth opportunities in this market. NutriSystem had been rated buy since TheStreet.com Ratings initiated coverage on Feb. 10, 2006.

Amerco ( UHAL), which supplies moving and storage products and services through its subsidiary, U-Haul, has been downgraded to hold. The stock has not performed well, and earnings per share has failed to show robust improvement.

Even though the stock has fallen in the past year, Amerco shares sport a price-over-earnings ratio (P/E) of 21.17, making the stock pricier than both the industry average and that of the S&P 500.

With an extremely low gross profit margin of 15% and a net profit margin of -2.2%, Amerco's margins have underperformed the industry average. In addition, net operating cash flow has decreased 60% to $23.20 million year over year. For the third quarter, Americo posted a year-over-year EPS decline of 13%. We anticipate further declines in the coming year. The company's net loss of $10.4 million also trails the industry average. Amerco had been rated buy since Aug. 10.

Brown & Brown ( BRO), an insurance agency, has been downgraded to hold.

Revenue growth of 1.2% is lower than the industry average, and earnings per share has declined year over year. Brown & Brown's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.22, implying very successful management of debt levels. However, the company's quick ratio of 0.96 is somewhat weak and could be cause for future problems.

Net income has decreased by 12% year over year to $33 million, underperforming the industry average. The stock is down 34% over the past year. Even with the decline, shares are still expensive relative to the industry average, with a price-over-earnings ratio of 14.07. Brown & Brown had been rated buy since TheStreet.com Ratings initiated coverage on Feb. 10, 2006.

CMS Energy ( CMS), an energy provider, has been downgraded to hold.

The company reported significant EPS improvement over the past year, and we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. The market expects an improvement in full-year earnings to 81 cents a share from a loss of 57 cents a share.

Net income has increased to $85 million from a loss of $100 million, and net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$517.00 million in the same period. CMS' debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.65 and exceeds the industry average, implying poor management of debt levels. CMS also maintains a poor quick ratio of 0.78, which illustrates the inability to avoid short-term cash problems. CMS Energy had been rated buy since Nov. 21.

Additional ratings changes from Feb. 12 are listed below.


Ticker Company Name Change New Rating Former Rating
UHAL AMERCO Downgrade Hold Buy
BRO BROWN & BROWN INC Downgrade Hold Buy
CMS CMS ENERGY CORP Downgrade Hold Buy
CBST CUBIST PHARMACEUTICALS INC Downgrade Hold Buy
EFSC ENTERPRISE FINL SERVICES CP Downgrade Hold Buy
GMCR GREEN MTN COFFEE ROASTERS Downgrade Hold Buy
KBALB KIMBALL INTERNATIONAL Downgrade Hold Buy
MCO MOODY'S CORP Downgrade Sell Hold
NYFX NYFIX INC Downgrade Sell Hold
PCH POTLATCH CORP Downgrade Hold Buy
RNR RENAISSANCERE HOLDINGS LTD Downgrade Hold Buy
RUBO RUBIO'S RESTAURANTS INC Downgrade Sell Hold
HLTH HLTH CORP Downgrade Hold Buy
NTRI NUTRISYSTEM INC Downgrade Hold Buy
PBH PRESTIGE BRANDS HOLDINGS Upgrade Hold Sell
SVR SYNIVERSE HOLDINGS INC Upgrade Buy Hold
CF CF INDUSTRIES HOLDINGS INC Upgrade Buy Hold
CMED CHINA MEDICAL TECHNOLGS -ADR Upgrade Buy Hold
AHGP ALLIANCE HOLDINGS GP LP Upgrade Hold Sell
RRST RRSAT GLOBAL COMM NTWRK LTD Initiated Hold
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com Ratings.

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