U.S. rating agencies are coming under scrutiny in the public eye, as the severity of negative subprime mortgage performance - and its ultimate impact on structured finance CDOs - has renewed the attention paid to credit ratings. Some on Wall Street are privately chuckling at the triple-A ratings assigned to certain deals in recent months, and expect that it's only a matter of time before regulators turn more attention to the agencies.

The pressing issue: In a market where trading is thin and even primary pricing levels are increasingly difficult to ascertain, is there too much reliance on ratings alone for investment decisions?

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