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 were generated on May 21.

Amdocs ( DOX), a software and services company, has been upgraded to buy. For the second quarter, revenue grew 10% year over year to $774.3 million, and earnings per share climbed to 46 cents from 40 cents. Net income increased 15% to $99.9 million. For 2008, the market expects an improvement in full-year EPS to $2.35 from $1.65 in 2007. Amdocs' debt-to-equity ratio of 0.17 is very low but exceeds the industry average. Its quick ratio of 2.11 demonstrates an ability to cover short-term cash needs. With a price-to-earnings ratio of 18.34, the stock trades at a considerable discount to its industry peers. Amdocs had been rated hold since March 19.

InterContinentalExchange ( ICE), an Internet-based global electronic marketplace, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths such as robust revenue growth and impressive EPS improvement are countered by a premium valuation. For the first quarter, revenue increased 64% year over year to $207.2 million, and earnings per share improved to $1.29 from 80 cents. For 2008, the market expects an improvement in full-year EPS to $5.21 from $3.38 in 2007. The debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.13, implying successful management of debt levels. However, its quick ratio of 0.35 is very weak. Shares have risen in the past year, outperforming the performance of the S&P 500. The stock trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 38.91, which makes it more expensive than others in its industry. InterContinentalExchange had been rated buy since May 19.

Newell Rubbermaid ( NWL), which designs, packages and distributes consumer and commercial products, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths such as revenue growth, expanding profit margins and compelling improvement in net income are held back by poor debt management, weak operating cash flow and a disappointing stock-price performance. For the first quarter, revenue grew 3.6% year over year to $1.43 billion, while earnings per share declined to 21 cents from 23 cents. For 2008, the market expects an improvement in full-year EPS to $1.80 from $1.71 in 2007. At 37%, the gross profit margin is strong. However, the net profit margin of 4% trails the industry average. The company's debt-to-equity ratio of 1.27 exceeds the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management. Its poor quick ratio of 0.77 illustrates an inability to avoid short-term cash problems.

Alexander's ( ALX), a real estate investment trust, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths such as notable return on equity, good cash flow from operations and expanding profit margins are balanced by unimpressive growth in net income, poor debt management and a disappointing stock-price performance. For the first quarter, revenue slipped 0.8% year over year to $51.8 million, and earnings per share declined to $2.98 from $6.32. Return on equity greatly increased from the year-ago quarter to 65% and exceeds the industry average. Net operating cash flow has tripled to $24.7 million. The profit margin is rather high at 52%, but the net profit margin of 29% trails the industry average. The company's debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 7.53, implying very poor management of debt levels. With a price-to-earnings ratio of 17.62, the stock trades at a discount to others in its space. Alexander's had been rated buy since March 11.

IHS ( IHS), which provides critical information, decision-support tools and related services to the energy, defense, aerospace, construction, electronics and automotive industries, has been downgraded to hold. Strengths such as robust revenue growth, a solid financial position and EPS improvement are weighed down by disappointing return on equity. For the first quarter, revenue increased 30% year over year to $198.8 million, and earnings per share rose to 34 cents from 32 cents. Regardless of the somewhat mixed results with the debt-to-equity ratio, the company's quick ratio of 0.83 is weak. The company's gross profit margin is rather high at 55%. Its net profit margin of 11% compares favorably to the industry average. The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior and lags the industry average. Shares have risen 61% in the past year, beating the S&P 500. The gains have netted the stock a price-to-earnings ratio of 44.68, which places it at a premium to others in its industry. IHS had been rated buy since May 13.

Additional ratings changes from May 21 are listed below.

Ticker Company Name Change New Rating Former Rating
ALX Alexander's Downgrade Hold Buy
DOX Amdocs Upgrade Buy Hold
FCFC FirstCity Financial Downgrade Sell Hold
ICE InterContinentalExchange Downgrade Hold Buy
IHS IHS Inc. Downgrade Hold Buy
KVHI KVH Industries Upgrade Buy Hold
NWL Newell Rubbermaid Downgrade Hold Buy
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com Ratings.

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