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 Wednesday, April 15.

We've downgraded Commerce Bancshares ( CBSH), which provides various banking services to individuals and businesses, from buy to hold. Strengths include the company's expanding profit margins and notable return on equity. However, we also find weaknesses including a decline in the stock price during the past year, feeble growth in the company's earnings per share and premium valuation.

Commerce's gross profit margin of 69.4% has decreased from the same period last year. Revenue fell by 15.9%. EPS also declined, and we expect the company's two-year pattern of declining EPS to continue in the coming year. Return on equity fell slightly from the year-ago quarter, implying a minor weakness in the organization.

Shares are down 12.6% over the past year, in part reflecting the market's overall decline, which was actually deeper. Looking ahead, we do not see anything in this company's numbers that would change the one-year trend. It was down over the last 12 months, and it could be down again in the next 12. Naturally, a bull or bear market could sway the movement of this stock.

We've upgraded restaurant chain operator Darden Restaurants ( DRI) from hold to buy, driven by its attractive valuation levels, solid stock price performance and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

EPS are down slightly compared with the year-earlier quarter, but we feel that Darden is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. Net operating cash flow increased 6% to $334 million compared with the year-ago quarter, while revenue dropped 0.7%. Shares are higher than they were a year ago, outperforming the S&P 500 over the same timer period. It goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.

We've upgraded FactSet Research Systems ( FDS), which provides financial and economic information to the investment community, from hold to buy. This rating is driven by the company's revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results.

Revenue rose by 11.6% since the same quarter a year ago. FactSet has no debt to speak of and maintains a quick ratio of 2.7. ROE has improved slightly compared with the year-ago quarter. EPS are up 20.3% in the most recent quarter compared with the same quarter last year, and we think the company's two-year trend of EPS growth should continue. Net income increased by 17.2% compared with the year-ago quarter, from $29.5 million to $34.6 million.

We've upgraded International Game Technology ( IGT), which engages in the design, manufacture and marketing of computerized gaming equipment, from sell to hold. Strengths include its attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and expanding profit margins. However, we also find weaknesses including feeble growth in the company's earnings per share, deteriorating net income and generally poor debt management.

Net operating cash flow increased 24.4% to $149.5 million compared with the same quarter last year. The 60.7% gross profit margin has decreased from the year-ago quarter. The 10.9% net profit margin trails the industry average. EPS are down 38.9% compared with the year-ago quarter, and we anticipate the company's two-year trend of declining EPS to continue in the coming year. Net income fell 42.2% compared with the year-ago quarter, from $113.7 million to $65.7 million.

We've upgraded Teekay LNG Partners ( TGP), which provides marine transportation services for liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil, from sell to hold. Strengths include the company's revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. However, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, generally poor debt management and weak operating cash flow.

Revenue rose 24.3% since the year-ago quarter. EPS are also up, and we feel that the company's yearlong trend of EPS growth should continue. The 76.8% gross profit margin has decreased since the year-ago quarter. The 58.7% net profit margin outperformed the industry average. Net operating cash flow fell 37.9% to $24 million compared with the year-ago quarter. The 3.7 debt-to-equity ratio is above the industry average. The company maintains a quick ratio of 0.5.

All ratings changes from April 15 are listed below.

Ticker
Company
Current
Change
Previous
AHR
Anthracite Capital
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
BKR
Michael Baker
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
CBSH
Commerce Bancshares
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
CRED
Credo Petroleum
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
DRI
Darden Retaurants
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
FDS
FactSet Research Systems
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
HPCO
Hallador Petroleum
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
IGT
International Game Technology
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
TGP
Teekay LNG Partners
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
TNS
TNS
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
VSNT
Versant
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD

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.

TheStreet.com Ratings, recently cited for Best Stock Selection from October 2007 through February 2009 , is an independent research provider that combines fundamental and technical analysis to offer investors tremendous value in volatile times. To see how your portfolio can use this research, click here now!

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