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 total return performance.'s stock-rating model upgraded Brookline Bancorp ( BRKL), a community bank in Greater Boston, to "buy."

The numbers: Second-quarter revenue increased 3% to $37 million as net income grew 27% to $4.7 million and earnings per share climbed 33% to 8 cents. The operating margin rose from 27% to 29% and the net margin jumped from 10% to 12%. The cash balance has increased 12% to $116 million since the year-ago quarter. But a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.3 demonstrates higher-than-ideal leverage. Our model prefers companies with debt-to-equity ratios less than 1.

The stock: Brookline Bancorp has decreased 2% in 2009, underperforming the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 Index. The stock trades at an expensive price-to-earnings ratio of 42, but offers an attractive 3.3% dividend yield.

The model upgraded soft-drink maker Cott ( COT) to "hold."

The numbers: First-quarter revenue fell 6% to $367 million as the company swung to a net profit of $20 million, or 28 cents, from a loss of $21 million, or 30 cents, in the year-earlier period. The operating margin climbed from negative territory to 8% and the net margin rose to 5%.

Cott's balance sheet remains a concern. The cash balance has halved to $11 million since last year's second quarter. A quick ratio of 0.7 indicates weak liquidity and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.6 reflects high leverage.

The stock: Cott has surged 430% this year, outperforming all major U.S. indices. The stock is still trading at a vast discount to other soft-drink companies on the basis of book value, sales and cash flow. Cott doesn't pay dividends.

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