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 that a rating alone cannot tell the whole story and that it should be part of an investor's overall research.

The following ratings changes were generated on March 5.

Capital Trust ( CT), a real estate investment trust, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths such as robust revenue growth, notable return on equity and attractive valuation levels are weighed down by poor debt management, weak operating cash flow and a disappointing stock-price performance. For the third quarter of 2007, revenue rose 39% year over year to $66 million, and EPS improved by a penny to 87 cents over the same period.

This year, the market expects an improvement in full-year EPS to $4.03 from $3.39 a year ago. Return on equity has improved slightly from the year-ago quarter. Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to $18.82 million, or 8.20%, when compared with the same quarter last year. Despite a decrease in cash flow, the company is still fairing well by exceeding its industry average cash flow growth rate. Its debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 5.95, implying very poor management of debt levels. Capital Trust had been rated buy since TheStreet.com Ratings initiated coverage on March 3, 2006.

Health Care REIT ( HCN), a real estate investment trust that invests in health care facilities, has been upgraded to buy. For the fourth quarter, revenue leaped 52% to $133.5 million, and earnings per share rose to 38 cents from 31 cents in the same period. For 2008, the market expects an improvement in full-year EPS to $1.53 from $1.26 in 2007. The company's gross profit margin is rather high at 55%, and its net profit margin of 37% significantly outperformed the industry average. Health Care REIT had been rated hold since Aug. 9.

ENGlobal ( ENG), which, along with its subsidiaries, provides engineering services and systems in the U.S. and internationally, has been downgraded to hold. Compelling growth in net income, robust revenue growth and a solid financial position are countered by weak operating cash flow and poor profit margins. For the third quarter of 2007, net income increased 353.0% to $3.98 million. Revenues rose 17% to $96.8 million, and EPS rose to a profit of 14 cents from a loss of 6 cents.

The company's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.74 is somewhat low but exceeds the industry average. Its quick ratio of 2.08 is high and demonstrates strong liquidity. ENGlobal's gross profit margin is low at 17%, and its net profit margin of 4.1% has decreased from the year-ago quarter. Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to -$4.99 million over the same period. In addition, compared with the industry average, the firm's cash-generation growth rate is significantly lower. ENGlobal had been rated buy since Dec. 10.

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), a financial services company, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths including revenue growth, attractive valuation and expanding profit margins are balanced by poor debt management, weak operating cash flow and a disappointing stock-price performance. For the fourth quarter, revenue grew 8.2% year over year to $28.78 billion, but EPS decreased to 86 cents from $1.09. Return on equity has improved marginally over the same period.

JPMorgan's debt-to-equity ratio, at 3.50, exceeds industry average, implying very poor management of debt levels. Net operating cash flow has decreased to -$29.25 billion from the year-ago quarter. In addition, the firm's growth rate is much lower than the industry average. JPMorgan Chase had been rated buy since March 3, 2006.

Nobel Learning Communities ( NLCI), which operates a network of nonsectarian private schools, has been upgraded to buy. For the second quarter of its fiscal 2008, revenue increased 12% to $51.2 million, but earnings per share decreased to 21 cents from 34 cents. For 2008, the market expects full-year EPS to improve to 74 cents from 71 cents for 2007. Net operating cash flow increased 274% to $4.96 million over the same period. However, the company's growth still lags the industry average. With a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.07, Nobel Learning Communities displays successful management of debt levels. However, its quick ratio of 0.07 shows an inability to pay short-term obligations. Nobel Learning Communities had been rated hold since Feb. 6.

Additional ratings changes are listed below.

TITLE
SUB
Ticker Company Name Change New Rating Former Rating
BELM BELL MICROPRODUCTS INC Downgrade Sell Hold
CT CAPITAL TRUST INC/MD Downgrade Hold Buy
HCN HEALTH CARE REIT INC Upgrade Buy Hold
ENG ENGLOBAL CORP Downgrade Hold Buy
JPM JPMORGAN CHASE & CO Downgrade Hold Buy
NLCI NOBEL LEARNING CMNTYS INC Upgrade Buy Hold
HLYS HEELYS INC Initiated Sell
Source: INSERT SOURCE

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com Ratings.

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