A Banner Day For Speculation

Tuesday was a bull market in takeover rumors.

First came rumors that Microsoft would acquire Network Associates . Network Associates officials later said the rumors were unfounded, but the stock gained 4% on the day anyway, while rival Symantec slipped 2%.

While Network Associates insists it’s not up for sale, investors could be forgiven for assuming that everyone has a price. With a market cap of less than $3 billion, Microsoft would have $50 billion left to spend if it acquired the company.

More substantive was Larry Ellison’s shopping list. The Oracle CEO’s list of potential takeover targets was revealed in a videotaped deposition from May and a year-old document, both of which were unveiled in the company’s battle with the Justice Department over its proposed acquisition of PeopleSoft .

Ellison said Siebel was his second choice after PeopleSoft – and he asserted that founder and CEO Tom Siebel had offered to sell him the company. Also on Oracle’s wish list were BEA , Business Objects , Lawson Software , Cerner and Sybase .

It’s rare that investors – and competitors – get such a good glimpse into a company’s strategic thinking. No wonder Oracle fought to keep the list private.

Stocks rose Tuesday on strong earnings from technology stocks and brokerages.

The Nasdaq gained 19 to 1994, the S&P 500 rose 4 to 1134, and the Dow climbed 23 to 10,395. Volume rose to 1.38 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.66 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 17-14 on the NYSE, and 17-13 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 65% on the NYSE, and 68% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 93-28 on the NYSE, and 53-55 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, 3Com beat estimates.

During the day, palmOne soared 37% after reporting blow-out earnings, while Priceline slipped after raising guidance.

Broadcom , up 5%, gave chip stocks a boost with an upbeat conference presentation.

Lucent and JDS Uniphase were among the gainers on SBC’s big spending plans.

QLogic jumped 7% on a Merrill Lynch upgrade based on valuation.

Loudeye gained 11% on an acquisition.

Bankrate fell 8% on the departure of its CEO.

Cablevision lost 4% on steep price cuts for voice, video and data services.

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