Back from the Buy Side

SAN FRANCISCO -- Earlier this week, Richard Whittington returned to the sell side as

Banc of America Securities'

senior semiconductor analyst. On Tuesday, he unveiled ratings on 18 (and a life to go) chip stocks. It's too cumbersome to provide all the details, but suffice to say Whittington's call was positive: "We believe investors should strongly overweight semiconductor and related equities," he wrote. The analyst initiated eight stocks with strong buy ratings, nine with buy and one --

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

-- at market perform.

(I guess he's not buying AMD's latest "threat" to

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, huh?)

Wall Street aficionados (heretofore "Street people") no doubt recall the analyst left

SoundView Financial

in 1996 to run a hedge fund bearing his name --

Whittington Management

.

Those familiar with what went down say Whittington left SoundView, where he was a partner, after the firm chafed at his negative call on the chip industry. Basically, the firm didn't want to risk its banking relationships and the accompanying fees, sources said.

SoundView's offices in Connecticut were closed when I called for comment. (Dang time difference.)

The analyst didn't want to rehash history, but added: "I didn't have attractive sell-side offers" after leaving SoundView. "Everyone is so banking-driven they didn't want to hire someone who'd be

negative."

Whittington also declined to discuss the specific performance of his hedge fund ("less than $100 million" was all he'd say about size) but said he "made money" after producing two "very good" years and one "mediocre" one. "I wasn't brilliant. I had a very volatile track record."

The analyst-cum-hedge fund manager-cum-analyst wasn't complaining, but his experience could (should?) serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of us. Whether you're thinking of making the leap into money management or just managing personal finances.

"I found I was like 95% of other managers, reacting to volatility more than being true to underlying principals of stocks I wanted to be in," he said. "I ended up starting at the screen and watching Asian and Latin American crises rolling around. I finally woke up and realized what made me good in this industry was seeing companies, reacting to management, learning stories, and seeing technology trends face to face -- not from a screen in a office with a bunch of quotes flashing."

(The moral being "stick to your knitting," which -- of course -- is a big theme of this column.)

So Whittington jumped when Thomas Thornhill, B of A Securities' director of research, came calling in May after Jon Joseph left for

Salomon Smith Barney

.

"I was sitting there watching the semi's cycle get ready to roll and thought, what wouldn't be nicer than to go back and call an upcyle?" he said.

Because he'd been out of the analytical business for so long, Whittington had to wait two months before regulators would let him take the Series 7 (he passed). But "if I'm right about the duration

of the chip cycle upturn we're very early stage," he said.

But what happens if he were to

(gasp)

turn negative again?

"I think they'd be more than delighted," the analyst waxed diplomatic. "The sense here is to be right and put out the best information to the customers and public, which is the way I was trained. You can only add value to institutional clients if you're putting your best foot forward every day."

Once bitten, still bold.

TSC Special

Staff reporter

Joe Bousquin

, who's young but likes to yell and scream in the newsroom like the old-fashioned reporter he is, gets the nod today with

Vanguard's Bogle Miffed at Board's Stance.

Yikes ... And Away

The cyber-ink was barely dry on

yesterday's column when the emails began coming in, alerting me to a gross (as in "big" vs. "icky") oversight.

Several readers rightfully noted the

S&P 500

closed at 1281.43 on

Tuesday, below Ralph Acampora's "caveat" about the

Dow

needing to stay above 10,334 and the

S&P 500

above 1,292 for his forecasts to remain intact.

The great thing about a daily column is it's like hitting a baseball: You can't get all atwitter just because you miss a juicy pitch in your "wheelhouse." There's always another one coming, or, at least, another at bat. (Remember, even the great

Ted Williams hit .344, meaning he "failed" more than six of 10 at-bats. To err is human, to forgive,

Chuck Knoblauch.)

I tried the chief technical analyst of

Prudential Securities

repeatedly today, but he did not return my calls, although I can't imagine why.

Egads

Is it my imagination or is

CNBC

slowly incorporating Darby Mullany into the market's reporting crew? Say it ain't so, Bruno.

I met Darby when she first started at the network. She struck me as a nice person who wanted to be on TV (no crime, there), but not as someone with a financial reporting background. A check on her

bio confirmed same.

Perhaps

CNBC

is looking for the next "Money Honey" in case rumors about Maria Bartiromo bolting into the morning-TV arms of Bryant Gumbel (or Rene Russo, for that matter) prove true. But doesn't the investing public deserve better?

I know I've taken shots at Steve Frank but at least he's got a financial clue. Moreover,

TSC

chieftain

Dave Kansas

, who worked with Frank at

The Wall Street Journal

, said he's "smart and confident" and "doing a decent job."

Still, the guy

does

bug me horribly. Frank that is, not Kansas.

P.S.

Meanwhile, sources say

CNBC's

chieftains have barred

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index from being mentioned for "competitive reasons." (First

JJC

and

Herb

, now the poor, defenseless DOT.)

A

CNBC

spokeswoman denied the charge, however.

"We have an alliance with the

Wall Street Journal

(Really? I hadn't noticed) and will use the

Dow Jones

index where applicable," she said. "We are not banning the

DOT and will use that whenever applicable. It's at the editor's discretion."

Aha! Can't you imagine

CNBC's

producers getting word to "de-emphasize" the DOT, negating the need for an official ban? The Communists used to do this stuff all the time.

But the "pinkos" at

CNBC

cannot muzzle the TaskMaster! I vow to defend the DOT's freedom to be broadcast until my last breath.

Or until I get fired, whichever comes first.

Your Two Cents

See Results

Aaron L. Task writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at

taskmaster@thestreet.com.