Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine whether focused attention on a firm by an external organization, group, or influential analyst generates greater investor awareness that can affect a firm's value and cost of capital. This study is motivated by contemporary research that provides support for the hypothesis that investors have limited attention. Prior studies have focused on how investors' limited attention has influenced their analysis of firm-specific financial data. The studies have shown that investors may have limited attention and hence pay more attention to the more salient financial statement items. This paper extends this stream of research by empirically testing to determine if external sources attract investors' limited attention to a firm. Design/methodology/approach – The paper examines the published monthly Center for Financial Research and Analysis (CFRA) research reports from 1998 through 2004 that identify firms experiencing operational problems and/or using unusual or aggressive accounting practices. To provide evidence that information appearing in CFRA research reports has not already been impounded into a firm's stock price prior to the publication of the CFRA research report, the paper tests for abnormal returns around the publication of the CFRA research reports. Second, to provide evidence that the firms' cost of capital decreases after the publication date of the CFRA research reports, the paper tests for a decrease in the bid-ask spreads after firms appear on the CFRA research reports. Findings – Support was found for the hypothesis that firms experience a significant decline in their market value in the days surrounding their appearance on the CFRA research reports. For a sample of 892 firms, the cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) for a two-day window around a firm's appearance on a CFRA research report is -1.89 percent, and the CARs for a seven-day window around a firm's appearance on a CFRA research report is -3.50 percent. Originality/value – The paper's findings suggest that the information from the fundamental analysis conducted by the Center for Financial Research and Analysis has not already been impounded into a firm's stock price before its appearance on a CFRA research report. Although the paper found a decrease in the mean difference in the bid-ask spread change, it cannot provide statistically significant support for the hypothesis that a firm's cost of capital decreases after appearing on a CFRA research report.