) -- Last week we explored

how valuable analysts' stock ratings were to investors.

The results of our poll discovered that 76 percent of investors use analyst research occasionally while 19 percent said they never use analyst research when making a trade. Four percent of respondents said they always used analyst research.

The results validated our reports that

stock ratings matter...sometimes


With many firms cutting down on research teams since the settlement with then New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer in 2003, access to accurate, honest and quality research has been diminishing. Instead, star analysts such as Meredith Whitney are making some controversial calls, and going out on their own.

Whitney is supposedly charging $100,000 to $500,000 per year and per investor. Whether her research is worth that that much money is up for debate. Plenty of investors question the value of sell-side stock analysis, so how should investors use it?

Research can help investors gauge a floor, consider valuation against normalized earnings and an

opposing viewpoint is sometimes

a refreshing reminder of the risk involved in the market.

--Written by Maria Woehr in New York.

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