TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.

The following ratings changes were generated on Tuesday, April 14.

We've upgraded DineEquity ( DIN) from sell to hold. Strengths include its robust revenue growth and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and weak operating cash flow.

Revenue leaped by 66.4% since the year-ago quarter, but EPS declined, though the consensus estimate suggests that the company's two-year trend of declining EPS should reverse in the coming year. DineEquity's gross profit margin of 35.1% has decreased from the same period last year. It's -38.6% net profit margin underperformed the industry average. Return on equity decreased compared with the same quarter last year, implying weakness within the corporation. Net income fell from -$14.3 million in the year-ago quarter to -$137.1 million.

We've downgraded Excel Maritime Carriers ( EXM) from hold to sell, driven by its generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself, deteriorating net income, generally weak debt management, disappointing return on equity and feeble growth in its earnings per share.

Net income fell from $34.1 million in the year-ago quarter to -$329.2 million. The 1.5 debt-to-equity ratio is high compared with the industry average. The company's quick ratio is 0.4. ROE decreased since the year-ago qaurater, implying weakness. EPS also declined, though the consensus estimate suggests that the company's two-year pattern of declining EPS should reverse in the coming year.

Shares tumbled by 76.3% over the past year, underperforming the S&P 500. Despite the heavy decline in its share price, this stock is still more expensive (when compared to its current earnings) than most other companies in its industry. needs.

We've downgraded Bank of the Ozarks ( OZRK) from buy to hold. Strengths include its growth in earnings per share, increase in net income and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that we feel that the company's cash flow from its operations has been weak overall.

EPS have improved by 17.4% in the most recent quarter compared with the year-ago quarter, and we feel that the company's two-year trend of EPS growth should continue. Net income increased by 20.4% compared with the year-ago quarter, from $7.7 million to $9.3 million. The 44.9% gross profit margin has decreased from the same period last year. Net operating cash flow fell 22.7% to $9.4 million.

The fact that the stock has come down in price over the past year should not necessarily be interpreted as a negative; it could be one of the factors that may help make the stock attractive down the road. Right now, however, we believe that it is too soon to buy.

We've downgraded Meridian Bioscience ( VIVO) from buy to hold. Strengths include its growth in earnings per share, revenue growth and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, weak operating cash flow and disappointing return on equity.

EPS are up 11.1% in the most recent quarter compared with the year-ago quarter, and we feel that the company's two-year pattern of EPS growth should continue. Revenue increased by 1.3% compared with the year-ago quarter. Net operation cash flow fell 27.8% to $6.2 million.

Shares are down 49.1% over the past year, underperforming the S&P 500, but 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, Meridian is still more expensive than most of the other companies in its industry

We've upgraded Williams-Sonoma ( WSM) from sell to hold. Strengths include its largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, feeble growth in the company's earnings per share and deteriorating net income.

The company's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.02 is higher than the industry average. The quick ratio is 0.4. The 37.4% gross profit margin has decreased from the same period last year, and the 1.2% net profit margin trails the industry average. Revenue fell by 26.6% since the same quarter a year ago, and EPS also decreased. We anticipate the company's two-year pattern of declining EPS to continue in the coming year. Net income fell by 90.2% compared with the year-ago quarter, from $124.6 million to $12.2 million.

All ratings changes from April 14 are listed below.

 
Ticker
Company
Current
Change
Previous
AMIC
American Independence
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
APWR
A-Power Energy Generation
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
AREX
Approach Resources
SELL
Initiated
ASFN
Atlantic Southern Financial
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
BEXP
Brigham Exploration
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
BXG
Bluegreen
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
CML
Compellent Technologies
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
CMSB
CMS Bancorp
SELL
Initiated
DEJ
Dejour Enterprises
SELL
Initiated
DGTC
Del Global Technologies
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
DIN
DineEquity
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
EXM
Excel Maritime Carriers
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
FCFL
First Community Bank Corp. of America
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
FNET
Fortunet
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
FOR
Forestar
SELL
Initiated
GRS
Gammon Gold
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
HITK
Hi-Tech Pharmacal
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
INFI
Infinity Pharmaceuticals
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
INTX
Intersections
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
IVA
ValueRich
SELL
Initiated
MAXY
Maxygen
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
MAYS
J.W. Mays
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
MEA
Metalico
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
MOFG
Midwest One Financial Group
SELL
Initiated
NOBH
Nobility Homes
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
NZ
Netezza
SELL
Initiated
OZRK
Bank of the Ozarks
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
PNRG
PrimeEnergy
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
SMHG
Sanders Morris Harris Group
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
VIVO
Meridian Bioscience
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
WSM
Williams-Sonoma
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL

Note: Our quantitative model makes stock recommendations based on GAAP figures that may differ materially from data as reported by the companies themselves. As a result, rating changes are occasionally driven by so-called nonrecurring items. As always, we urge readers to use TSC Ratings' reports in conjunction with additional information to construct their opinions on the value that should be placed on any given stock.

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