The financial services M&A rumor mill was churning again last week.

Among other things, the marketplace succumbed to speculation that Lehman Brothers would buy CIBC Oppenheimer's retail operations, that Goldman Sachs would buy Charles Schwab, and that First Union had its eye on FleetBoston.

When contacted Friday, none of the six companies would comment on the topic. Nonetheless, the buzz about possible takeovers - coming in the midst of an already edgy market - had its effect on share prices.

Charles Schwab Corp.'s stock rose 13%, to $33.875 on word that the San Francisco discount broker was in talks to merge with Goldman Sachs Group. Speculation on the deal emerged in Business Week's "Inside Wall Street" column, which reported that the two companies were in the midst of informal discussions.

The column said Goldman and Schwab have pegged Schwab's takeover value at about $60 a share.

Talks between Lehman Brothers and CIBC Oppenheimer over the purchase of CIBC's investment operations were heating up, according to analysts. And on Friday, the New York Post reported, more specifically, Lehman's interest in CIBC's 600-strong retail brokerage force to boost its distribution capability. This apparently came after CIBC weighed the idea of buying Lehman.

Despite a decline Friday, Lehman's stock reached a 12-month high of $149 last week, thanks in part to the perception that the company will eventually find its way into a deal, though the idea of Lehman as a buyer was clearly not as enticing to investors. The stock closed Friday down 0.18%, at $141.25. CIBC's stock fell 1.14%, to $32.03.

Analysts said that a potential consolidation between First Union Corp. and FleetBoston Financial Corp. has been in the wind for months, in part because the two companies appear to be such a good fit geographically. Shares of First Union rose 1.04%, to $30.375. Shares of FleetBoston rose 1.92%, to $39.875.

A source close to Fleet, while confirming that the First Union gossip was still alive and kicking, said she also heard talk last week about a possible combination of AIG and Bank One Corp.

And so it goes.

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