When in Rome...

Sure, it's hard to justify a bulletin-board stock's 102% spike -- but if you made that return, does it matter?
Publish date:

Strange Days, Indeed

SAN FRANCISCO -- Prudence (dear prudence) dictates otherwise, but join me now as we enter the magical, wooly world of bulletin-board stocks. (Heaven help me.) The subject of this, my virgin venture into the often speculative world of the smallest of small-caps is

Pacific Century CyberWorks


, which rose 102% to 2 3/4 today.

Taskmaster: Join the discussion on


message boards.

More than the absolute performance in the stock of the Hong Kong-based Internet incubator and developer of high-speed Net access, market players were agog at the trading activity. On "no news" easily discernible from traditional sources (more on that in a minute), Pacific Century CyberWorks traded nearly 81 million shares today. By comparison,



traded 40.8 million shares in "heavy"

news-driven activity, while


(MSFT) - Get Report

traded "only" 19.3 million shares.

Prior to today, Pacific Century's previous volume high was 21.8 million shares, reached yesterday. Before that, the stock had traded more than 10 million shares in a day only four times since its bulletin-board listing Oct. 27.

Unable to identify a reason for this gain, a flabbergasted Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at

Prime Charter

(who is familiar with Pacific Century CyberWorks but is neither long nor short the stock), speculated it was another example of "this frenzied stage of hopefulness for the future where anything goes and anything has gone."

I was ready to leave it at that, chalk it up to these crazy premillennial days in which we live. Then I got an email from a friend -- let's call him "Lou" -- late in the day asking me if I knew anything about, you guessed it, Pacific Century CyberWorks.

Lou, an accountant and semiactive trader whose exploits I first profiled (to surprisingly emotional reader response) back in

early January, wrote that he'd "dumped some money in it this morning based on a co-worker's tip." He was tempted to sell after doubling his money on a stock I gather he knew very little about.

Since the "tip" had traveled this far down the food chain (sorry Lou), I figured


must be up with Pacific Century CyberWorks, which, by the way, counts


(INTC) - Get Report




among its minority shareholders. As mentioned above, a quick scan of the "traditional" news outlets turned up


. (Not that that means anything because, obviously, somebody knows something somewhere.)

Then I scanned the (


) message boards, where I discovered very little, except rumblings about a reverse stock split (not generally considered good news) and that

Merrill Lynch

initiated coverage with a strong buy rating and a 12-month target of 10. I searched the


research report site for that purportedly bullish Merrill Lynch report, an effort that proved futile. Merrill Lynch's offices were closed when I called late today.

The message-board search also unveiled postings such as this one, from



Am new to this stock. But, I jumped in BIG time today (1.85) and expect rather large things from it. I'm hearing 5 is very conservative, and 10 is far from unreasonable. This thing could be as big or bigger than CMGI or Yahoo! (YHOO) . It's starting to get big exposure, so sit back, and enjoy the ride.

One reason for my reticence about writing about this stock is that I don't want to contribute -- in however a small way -- to the "big exposure" it is apparently getting. The point is not to get you to rush blindly into the stock, especially because it's one where information is sketchy and hard to find. By definition, bulletin-board stocks don't have to adhere to the requirements as those listed on the

Nasdaq National Market

, which include net tangible assets of at least $6 million, pretax income of at least $1 million, a public float of 1.1 million shares with at least $8 million in market value (no problem there for Pacific Century CyberWorks), a minimum bid price of 5, at least 400 different shareholders and at least three market makers involved in the stock.

In addition, because Pacific Century CyberWorks is Hong Kong-based, it is not required to file any information with the

Securities and Exchange Commission


Rather, I point it out as an example of the phenomenon loosely known as "momentum trading," and a reason why all the "old school" guys are going bald (it ain't because of genetics).

Meanwhile, during my search for the alleged Merrill report, I came across a report from

Warburg Dillon Read

detailing Pacific Gateway Cyberwork's plans to acquire a 5% stake in

Spike Networks

, an Australian-based Internet media and service provider.

Is such a transaction worthy of the stock's 102% ascent today on such outrageously heavy volume? Warburg Dillion Read's report wasn't overly bullish about the deal, and I was unable to reach its author.

But to "investors" like my friend Lou and doubtless hundreds others like him, does it really matter when you've doubled your money?

Can't say I blame them.

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