Merchants of Scuttlebutt

The self-proclaimed Bard of <I>TSC</I> delivers the coup de grace on rumor peddlers, and more.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Evoking the effortless grace of a shoe salesman, the big three stock proxies headed off into the weekend on an all-time high. (For more, see today's Market Roundup.)

A Spade By Any Other Name

Even the best market reporters sometimes fall into the trap of being overly cautious when things are going well. You just don't want to feel like you're somehow fueling the fire (as if).

But it dawns on me, the

S&P 500

has broken

decidedly

out of the trading range of roughly 1,275 to 1,375 that was its home for several months. Decidedly to the upside, that is.

Of course, that's not to say this will go on forever or there aren't risks.

Don't Shoot the Messenger

JagNotes

columnist

Seth Tobias

thanked me for the "free press" I'd given the site in the early days of this column. "Keep up the good work, Aaron, because I'm sure your mention is creating some buzz on the Street as to who we are," he wrote.

The "buzz" on the Street is that JagNotes is filled with "gibberish," as one market strategist at a major retail brokerage said yesterday (unsolicited, I swear). He reflected particularly on the posting of the rumor

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

will acquire

Compaq

(CPQ)

. (Never say never, but that does seem strange because nothing seems to benefit Dell more than having Compaq around to foul up.)

Regardless, I have no qualms about giving JagNotes free press because the sooner people realize it's just a very expensive chat board, the better. If people want to pay for

Jim Cramer

wannabes or a "Rumor Page" that is prime real estate for manipulators, who am I to stop them?

But maybe the fault lies not with JagNotes and its ilk, but with ourselves. Charles Payne, president and chief strategist at

Wall Street Strategies

, is a fan of JagNotes and said there's huge demand for this kind of speculative information.

"The problem is investors want to believe and they want the shortcut. They're never long the fundamental idea or the technical idea -- they're always long the rumor stocks," Payne says. "People get an extra thrill about being in a takeover stock. The irony is no takeover this year would have given you the return of buying

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

on weakness. There's been no takeover with that kind of premium."

Qualcomm jumped 4.6% today on word it will be added into the S&P 500 and is up 474% year-to-date (premium, indeed!).

Finally, investors hungering for takeover plays with relatively inexpensive stock prices fail to realize "these companies don't have much leverage to negotiate," the strategist said. "There are so few major scores on stocks under $20."

For the record,

Wall Street Strategies

also provides a rumor service (soon to be, uh-oh, online), but includes a "probability factor" and usually won't mention rumors "if a stock doesn't have the potential to move without the takeover," Payne said.

For the uninitiated: JagNotes is a stock information service that's recently gone online. By default, it's thus a competitor of

TheStreet.com

. But -- as far as I can tell -- JagNotes adheres to few, if any, basic journalistic standards. The site features this disclaimer:

Today's research has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, JagNotes cannot attest to the completeness or accuracy of such information. In addition, JagNotes is in no way affiliated with such firms and assumes no responsibility for the substance of the advice and/or recommendations.

In an attempt at detente, The TaskMaster made two calls yesterday -- one directly to JagNotes CEO Gary Valinoti, one to the firms outside P.R. firm. As of this writing, neither has been returned.

TSC Special

Check out

Jay Bernstein, Would-Be Wheeler-Dealer, Stalks Possis Medical. Senior Writer

Jesse Eisinger

proves he really knows what makes a great

TheStreet.com

story.

Watch this space for links to similar examples on a daily basis.

Media Notes

Kudos to

CNBC

for having the foresight to rearrange their lineup (if

Van Gundy

could do it, why not

CNBC

?). Putting

Ron Insana

and

Sue Herrera

in charge of "Business Center" and

Maria Bartiromo

on "Street Signs" seems a much better fit all around. However, Maria needs to tone down her unrepentant cheerleading and Ron needs to chill out on the "worst-case-scenario" scenarios, of which he seems enamored.

Still, maybe Maria would have fared better if she'd had the same kind of guests as appeared in the first days of the revamped Biz Center -- notably

Al Gore

and

Abby J. Cohen

during the first week. This week featured luminaries such as

Treasury

Secretary

Lawrence Summers

and

Viacom's

(VIA) - Get Report

Chairman

Sumner Redstone

(looking very

Burgess Meredith

according to SF bureau chief

Kevin Kelleher

).

And not having to compete with

Lou Dobbs

doesn't hurt either.

Meanwhile, wouldn't you have loved to be in the meeting where the top

CNBC

brass discussed the "What-Do-We-Do-With-

Tyler Mathisen

?" question?