The following ratings changes were generated on September 18.

Herman Miller ( MLHR) has been upgraded from hold to buy. Herman Miller engages in the research, design, manufacture, and distribution of interior furnishings for various environments, including office, healthcare, educational and residential settings. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its notable return on equity, growth in earnings per share and relatively strong performance when compared with the S&P 500 during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its return on equity from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared with other companies in the commercial services & supplies industry and the overall market, MLHR's return on equity significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.

MLHR has improved earnings per share by 11.1% in the most-recent quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. However, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, MLHR increased its bottom line by earning $2.57 vs. $1.99 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 3.1% in earnings ($2.49 vs. $2.57).

MLHR, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 2.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenue has slightly dropped by 2.6%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.

The change in net income from the same quarter one year ago has greatly exceeded that of the S&P 500, but is less than that of the commercial services & supplies industry average. The net income has decreased by 0.3% when compared with the same quarter one year ago, dropping from $33.50 million to $33.40 million.

Compared with where it was trading a year ago, MLHR's share price has not changed very much due to the relatively weak year-over-year performance of the overall market, the company's stagnant earnings and other mixed results. Looking ahead, although the push and pull of the overall market trend could certainly make a critical difference, we do not see any strong reason stemming from the company's fundamentals that would cause a continuation of last year's decline. In fact, the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings.

MLHR had been rated a hold since March 25, 2008.

Inergy LP ( NRGY) has been downgraded from a buy to hold. Inergy engages in the sale, distribution, storage, marketing, trading, processing and fractionation of propane, natural gas, and other natural gas liquids in the U.S. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, growth in earnings per share and good cash flow from operations. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, generally poor debt management and poor profit margins.

NRGY's very impressive revenue growth exceeded the industry average of 30.2%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenue leaped by 51.5%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.

NRGY has improved earnings per share by 22.1% in the most-recent quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. We feel that this trend should continue. This trend suggests that the performance of the business is improving. During the past fiscal year, NRGY turned its bottom line around by earning 72 cents vs. -12 cents in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings (89 cents vs. 72 cents).

The gross profit margin for NRGY is rather low; currently it is at 22.00%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -5.50% is significantly below that of the industry average.

NRGY's stock share price has done very poorly compared with where it was a year ago: Despite any rallies, the net result is that it is down by 35.72%, which is also worse that the performance of the S&P 500 Index. Investors have so far failed to pay much attention to the earnings improvements the company has managed to achieve over the last quarter. Although its share price is down sharply from a year ago, do not assume that it can now be tagged as cheap and attractive. The reality is that, based on its current price in relation to its earnings, NRGY is still more expensive than most of the other companies in its industry.

NRGY had been rated a buy since May 14, 2007.

Textron ( TXT) has been downgraded from buy to hold. Textron operates in the aircraft, industrial and finance industries worldwide. It operates through four segments: Bell, Cessna, Industrial and Finance. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including poor profit margins, a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself and generally poor debt management.

TXT's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 19.7%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenue rose by 21.1%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.

TXT has improved earnings per share by 21.9% in the most-recent quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. This trend suggests that the performance of the business is improving. During the past fiscal year, TXT has increased its bottom line by earning $3.59 vs. $2.72 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.92 vs. $3.59).

The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.57 and currently higher than the industry average, implying that there is very poor management of debt levels within the company. Even though the debt-to-equity ratio is weak, TXT's quick ratio is somewhat strong at 1.34, demonstrating the ability to handle short-term liquidity needs.

The gross profit margin for TXT is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 27.40%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 6.60% trails that of the industry average.

TXT had been rated a buy since September 16, 2008.

American Tower ( AMT) has been downgraded from buy to hold. American Tower Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in the ownership, operation and development of wireless and broadcast communication tower sites in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and revenue growth. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including generally poor debt management, premium valuation and weak operating cash flow.

AMT reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most-recent quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. This trend suggests that the performance of the business is improving. During the past fiscal year, AMT has increased its bottom line by earning 22 cents vs. 6 cents in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings (50 cents vs. 22 cents).

The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the wireless telecommunication services industry. The net income increased by 894.3% when compared with the same quarter one year prior, rising from -$19.99 million to $158.79 million.

The debt-to-equity ratio of 1.46 is relatively high when compared with the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management. Along with the unfavorable debt-to-equity ratio, AMT maintains a poor quick ratio of 0.92, which illustrates the inability to avoid short-term cash problems.

AMT had been rated a buy since April 28, 2008.

Signet Jewelers ( SIG) has been initiated at hold. Signet Jewelers Limited together with its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty jewelry retailer in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, reasonable valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including feeble growth in the company's earnings per share, deteriorating net income and disappointing return on equity.

SIG's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.29 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. To add to this, SIG has a quick ratio of 1.50, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.

Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 9.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenue has slightly dropped by 2.3%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.

Current return on equity is lower than its return on equity from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. In comparison to the other companies in the specialty retail industry and the overall market, SIG's return on equity is significantly below that of the industry average and is below that of the S&P 500.

The gross profit margin for SIG is currently extremely low, coming in at 10.90%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 2.50% trails that of the industry average.

Additional ratings changes from September 18 are listed below.
Ticker Company Current Change Previous
AMT American Tower Corp. HOLD Downgrade BUY
BGS B&G Foods Inc. SELL Downgrade HOLD
CFNB California First National Bancorp HOLD Downgrade BUY
DOX Amdocs Ltd. HOLD Downgrade BUY
EXXI Energy XXI Ltd. SELL Initiated
GFED Guaranty Federal Banchares SELL Downgrade HOLD
ICE Intercontinental Exchange Inc. SELL Downgrade HOLD
KFY Korn/Ferry International HOLD Downgrade BUY
LNCE Lance Inc. BUY Upgrade HOLD
MEA Metalico Inc. HOLD Downgrade BUY
MKSI MKS Instruments Inc. HOLD Downgrade BUY
MLHR Herman Miller Inc. BUY Upgrade HOLD
MNDO Mind C.T.I. Ltd. SELL Downgrade HOLD
NRGY Inergy LP. HOLD Downgrade BUY
PBH Prestige Brands Holdings HOLD Downgrade BUY
PVR Penn Virginia Resource Partners HOLD Downgrade BUY
SCMP Sucampo Pharmaceuticals Inc. SELL Downgrade HOLD
SIG Signet Jewelers Ltd. HOLD Initiated
TXT Textron Inc. HOLD Downgrade BUY
VIA VIACOM Inc. SELL Downgrade HOLD

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