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Anyway, if anyone has a serious or not-so-serious take on what all the recommendations mean (other than a thinly-disguised attempt to preserve analyst-customer relationships), I'd love to hear it.

One time I was watching a high net worth focus group, and one of the participants related this story:

"One day, my broker at Merrill called me and said, we're really high on this stock, we're just about to list it as a buy, etc.

"Now, I knew a friend who already owned this stock, and we had the same broker. So I said, why don't you call him up, and ask him if you should buy some more? Just to see what he says...

"So my friend calls up the broker--this is on the same day--and asks about the same stock I had just been advised to buy. The broker says,

"'Nah, I've been wondering why you're holding onto that one. As a matter of fact, I've been meaning to call you on something else..."

So the broker advised to buy and to sell the same stock on the same day. This while the stock had not yet had any official recommendation whatsover.

Since then, the only thing I have looked for in a broker is information and logic. The degrees of recommendations are almost ridiculous anyway--a strong buy to whom, for instance? A retiree? A first timer? My only recommendation on broker recommendations is caveat emptor.
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