TheStreet Ratings Top 10 Rating Changes

NEW YORK ( TheStreet Ratings) -- Every trading day TheStreet Ratings' stock model reviews the investment ratings on around 4,700 U.S. traded stocks for potential upgrades or downgrades based on the latest available financial results and trading activity.

TheStreet Ratings released rating changes on 76 U.S. common stocks for week ending March 16, 2012. 53 stocks were upgraded and 23 stocks were downgraded by our stock model.

Rating Change #10

Central Vermont Public Service Corporation ( CV) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and solid stock price performance. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and poor profit margins.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 7.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 3.1%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.87, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels. Even though the company has a strong debt-to-equity ratio, the quick ratio of 0.39 is very weak and demonstrates a lack of ability to pay short-term obligations.
  • The gross profit margin for CENTRAL VERMONT PUB SERV is currently extremely low, coming in at 12.50%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -9.80% is significantly below that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to $10.25 million or 4.98% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm's growth is significantly lower.
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Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, operates as an electric utility company in Vermont, the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 86, above the average utilities industry P/E ratio of 85.7 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Central Vermont Public Service has a market cap of $472.1 million and is part of the utilities sector and utilities industry. Shares are up 0.2% year to date as of the close of trading on Thursday.

You can view the full Central Vermont Public Service Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #9

First BanCorp ( FBP) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its weak operating cash flow and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $28.39 million or 53.82% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • FBP has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 7.03% from its price level of one year ago. The fact that the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings is not reason enough to justify a buy rating at this time.
  • FBP, with its decline in revenue, underperformed when compared the industry average of 3.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 17.0%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Commercial Banks industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, FIRST BANCORP P R has outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • 41.60% is the gross profit margin for FIRST BANCORP P R which we consider to be strong. It has increased significantly from the same period last year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of -8.70% is in-line with the industry average.
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First BanCorp operates as the holding company for FirstBank Puerto Rico that provides a range of financial services and products to retail, commercial, and institutional clients primarily in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Florida. The company has a P/E ratio of 1.8, below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. First BanCorp has a market cap of $718 million and is part of the financial sector and banking industry. Shares are up 13.8% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full First BanCorp Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #8

Asbury Automotive Group Inc ( ABG) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and attractive valuation levels. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 3.7%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Powered by its strong earnings growth of 278.57% and other important driving factors, this stock has surged by 35.27% over the past year, outperforming the rise in the S&P 500 Index during the same period. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, ABG should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already enjoyed a very nice gain in the past year.
  • ASBURY AUTOMOTIVE GROUP INC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to 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. During the past fiscal year, ASBURY AUTOMOTIVE GROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $1.48 versus $1.14 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.06 versus $1.48).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Specialty Retail industry. The net income increased by 298.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $5.40 million to $21.50 million.
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Asbury Automotive Group, Inc. operates as an automotive retailer in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 22.8, above the average specialty retail industry P/E ratio of 14.9 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Asbury Automotive Group has a market cap of $733.7 million and is part of the services sector and specialty retail industry. Shares are up 22.9% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

You can view the full Asbury Automotive Group Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #7

Cloud Peak Energy Inc ( CLD) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, revenue growth and attractive valuation levels. 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.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income increased by 240.2% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $12.88 million to $43.82 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 23.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 16.4%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. In comparison to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, CLOUD PEAK ENERGY INC has underperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has greatly exceeded that of the S&P 500.
  • CLD has underperformed the S&P 500 Index, declining 16.55% from its price level of one year ago. Turning toward the future, 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.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio of 1.18 is relatively high when compared with the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management. Regardless of the company's weak debt-to-equity ratio, CLD has managed to keep a strong quick ratio of 1.62, which demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
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Cloud Peak Energy Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in the coal mining operations in the Powder River Basin and the United States. It produces and sells sub-bituminous thermal coal with low sulfur content primarily to electric utilities. The company has a P/E ratio of 5.5, below the average metals & mining industry P/E ratio of 7.1 and below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Cloud Peak Energy has a market cap of $1.17 billion and is part of the basic materials sector and metals & mining industry. Shares are down 13.3% year to date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

You can view the full Cloud Peak Energy Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #6

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, 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 deteriorating net income, weak operating cash flow and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 4.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 3.9%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.34, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. To add to this, JNJ has a quick ratio of 1.88, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • The gross profit margin for JOHNSON & JOHNSON is currently very high, coming in at 72.40%. Regardless of JNJ's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, JNJ's net profit margin of 1.30% is significantly lower than the same period one year prior.
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Pharmaceuticals industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 88.8% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $1,942.00 million to $218.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to $3,451.00 million or 9.75% when compared to the same quarter last year. In conjunction, when comparing current results to the industry average, JOHNSON & JOHNSON has marginally lower results.
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Johnson & Johnson engages in the research, development, manufacture, and sale of various products in the health care field worldwide. The company has a P/E ratio of 18.6, above the average drugs industry P/E ratio of 15.9 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Johnson & Johnson has a market cap of $177.51 billion and is part of the health care sector and drugs industry. Shares are down 0.8% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full Johnson & Johnson Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #5

HudBay Minerals Inc ( HBM) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and growth in earnings per share. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 5.6%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 39.0%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • HBM has no debt to speak of therefore resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of zero, which we consider to be a relatively favorable sign. Along with this, the company maintains a quick ratio of 4.81, which clearly demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Metals & Mining industry. The net income increased by 45.9% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $24.49 million to $35.73 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $97.10 million or 49.70% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, HUDBAY MINERALS INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -52.16%.
  • HUDBAY MINERALS INC has improved earnings per share by 31.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. Stable Earnings per share over the past year indicate the company has sound management over its earnings and share float. During the past fiscal year, HUDBAY MINERALS INC increased its bottom line by earning $0.49 versus $0.48 in the prior year.
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HudBay Minerals Inc. engages in the discovery, production, and marketing of copper concentrates containing copper, gold, and silver, and zinc metal and zinc oxide in North, Central, and South America. The company has a P/E ratio of 26.1, above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. HudBay has a market cap of $2.04 billion and is part of the basic materials sector and metals & mining industry. Shares are up 16.2% year to date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

You can view the full HudBay Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #4

Popular Inc ( BPOP) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from sell to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • POPULAR INC reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to 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, POPULAR INC turned its bottom line around by earning $0.15 versus -$0.15 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.20 versus $0.15).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Commercial Banks industry. The net income increased by 101.3% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from -$227.14 million to $2.98 million.
  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 3.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 1.6%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. Compared to other companies in the Commercial Banks industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, POPULAR INC underperformed against that of the industry average and is significantly less than that of the S&P 500.
  • BPOP's stock share price has done very poorly compared to where it was a year ago: Despite any rallies, the net result is that it is down by 27.00%, 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. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor. However, in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.
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Popular, Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides a range of retail and commercial banking products and services primarily to corporate clients, small and middle size businesses, and retail clients in Puerto Rico and Mainland United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 15.6, below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. Popular has a market cap of $1.65 billion and is part of the financial sector and banking industry. Shares are up 57.6% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full Popular Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #3

BioMed Realty Trust Inc ( BMR) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, growth in earnings per share, increase in stock price during the past year and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 17.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.3%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is somewhat low, currently at 0.65, and is less than that of the industry average, implying that there has been a relatively successful effort in the management of debt levels.
  • BIOMED REALTY TRUST INC has improved earnings per share by 33.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. Stable earnings per share over the past year indicate the company has sound management over its earnings and share float. We anticipate these figures will begin to experience more growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, BIOMED REALTY TRUST INC's EPS of $0.18 remained unchanged from the prior years' EPS of $0.18. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.28 versus $0.18).
  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, reflecting both the market's overall trend during that period and the fact that the company's earnings growth has been robust. Looking ahead, the stock's rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that the other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
  • The company, on the basis of net income growth from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed compared to the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry average, but is greater than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 23.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $12.76 million to $15.71 million.
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BioMed Realty Trust, Inc. operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT) that focuses on providing real estate to the life science industry in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 98.5, below the average real estate industry P/E ratio of 107.4 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. BioMed has a market cap of $2.4 billion and is part of the financial sector and real estate industry. Shares are up 3.7% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full BioMed Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #2

First Niagara Financial Group Inc ( FNFG) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, expanding profit margins, compelling growth in net income and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 3.0%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 37.1%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The gross profit margin for FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GRP is currently very high, coming in at 82.30%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 16.40% is above that of the industry average.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and greatly outperformed compared to the Commercial Banks industry average. The net income increased by 27.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $45.86 million to $58.46 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 60.23% to $92.64 million when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow, FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GRP's cash flow growth rate is still lower than the industry average growth rate of 91.36%.
  • FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GRP's earnings per share declined by 13.6% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. However, we anticipate this trend reversing over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GRP reported lower earnings of $0.65 versus $0.70 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.95 versus $0.65).
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First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. operates as the holding company for First Niagara Bank, N.A. that provides retail and commercial banking, and other financial services to individuals, families, and businesses. The company has a P/E ratio of 14.9, above the average banking industry P/E ratio of 13.9 and below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. First Niagara Financial Group has a market cap of $2.83 billion and is part of the financial sector and banking industry. Shares are up 15.9% year to date as of the close of trading on Friday.

You can view the full First Niagara Financial Group Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

Rating Change #1

SK Telecom Co. Ltd ( SKM) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its notable return on equity, attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Wireless Telecommunication Services industry and the overall market, SK TELECOM CO LTD's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $784.82 million or 39.88% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, SK TELECOM CO LTD has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -11.44%.
  • SK TELECOM CO LTD's earnings per share declined by 33.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, SK TELECOM CO LTD increased its bottom line by earning $1.85 versus $1.62 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.90 versus $1.85).
  • SKM, with its decline in revenue, underperformed when compared the industry average of 10.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 14.7%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
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SK Telecom Co., Ltd. provides wireless telecommunications services using code division multiple access (CDMA) and wide-band CDMA technologies. It offers cellular voice services, such as wireless voice transmission services; and wireless global roaming services. The company has a P/E ratio of 0.8, below the average telecommunications industry P/E ratio of 5.7 and below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. SK Telecom has a market cap of $8.51 billion and is part of the technology sector and telecommunications industry. Shares are up 1.2% year to date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

You can view the full SK Telecom Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

-- Reported by Kevin Baker in Jupiter, Fla.

For additional Investment Research check out our Ratings Research Center.

For all other upgrades and downgrades made by TheStreet Ratings Model today check out our upgrades and downgrades list.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TheStreet Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering equity and mutual fund ratings. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.

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