Truth Serum: Wit Gets Wooed (in Wumors, Anyway)

Also, <I>Brill's</I> sends chills up the spines of personal finance magazines.
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Hank Paulson,

Goldman Sachs'

(GS) - Get Report

CEO, called to say he'd just finished writing a check so Goldman could buy the rest of

Wit Capital

(WITC)

.

Oh yeah, and an angel sent by

God

just told me the Big Guy is considering adding a day to the weekend. That won't happen, obviously, until next Friday (although Steve Lipin at the

Journal

will probably have the talks covered on A3 Thursday morning).

Somehow the latter seems more likely an occurrence despite what the market said Thursday about Wit, the tiny, online investment bank and brokerage.

At around 11:00 a.m. EDT, Wit's shares started to rally, running up about a buck. At 11:36 a.m.,

JagNotes

mentioned that Goldman would buy the remaining 80% of Wit for $30 a share. Aside from the fact that Goldman only owns 13% of Wit, why would the firm add a 10-buck premium to an online investment bank that hasn't really made a dent in the market?

Don't know what's on the lunch menu over at Jag, but I think I once bought some in a dark corner of

PS 163's

schoolyard.

Anyway, nothing much happened immediately after the Jag report, but at around 1 p.m. the shares ran again, hitting 22 3/4 before they landed softly at 20 1/2, up 19% on the day. Volume, typically about 350,000, hit 3.7 million.

But, you ask, hasn't Goldman already professed its love for Wit by buying a chunk of the company? Love on Wall Street these days is kind of like romance in Panama City, Fla., during Spring Break. Capricious, you know?

Goldman has thrown some loose change at almost every available alternative trading system. It dropped $25 million to buy 20% of Wit, then had its share reduced in Wit's IPO.

It also has warrants that expire in October 2000 that give it the opportunity to buy an additional portion of the company. Might it be more logical then? Yes. Before then? Unlikely, unless something big happens to Wit.

Normally limbs aren't a place I like to go out on, but to paraphrase fellow Brooklynite

Stephon Marbury

: Goldman won't acquire Wit. "Never, ever, ever, decimal, decimal to infinity."

Brill's Content

does a little Truth Serum injecting itself in its next issue by rating the stock-picking prowess of the major personal finance magazines. You know, the stuff that screams off the newsstand with "The Ten Stocks You Should Buy for Your Mistress

Now

" covers.

The result: You shoulda bought her the index.

Content

followed 512 stock and funds chosen in 1994, 1996 and 1998 and tracked them through June 1999. It found that the

S&P 500

outperformed each magazine's collective picks.

Now, I realize beating the index in the 1990s is no small achievement. But, for example, performance of stocks mentioned during cover stories in the first seven months of 1998 trailed the S&P return range of 22% to 25% (the magazines began tracking stocks at different times, so the S&P performance isn't the same for each) over the next year.

Money

magazine topped the chart with a return of 14.65%, followed by

Kiplinger's

11.48%.

SmartMoney's

picks posted a 13.91% decline in that time period.

Over the entire sampling,

Money

and

Kiplinger's

posted average annual returns of around 17%, while

SmartMoney's

picks returned almost 9.3%.

Representatives from each magazine did get their turn, criticizing the magazine's methodology and lamenting the task of trying to outperform the S&P 500 during the greatest bull market in history. "In any other time in history, with a return of 17%, a person would have been elated," Eric Gelman,

Money's

assistant managing editor, told

Content

.

We're depending on our readers for sources, rumors and ideas. Send any to our Truth Serum

hotline.