In case you didn't notice, the Dow Jones Industrial Average peeked above 9,000 for a while today. That was the index's highest level since last September and about 20% above this year's low. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, reached a 52-week high at 1,620.

Of course, both later bounced down off those ceilings... but it's still quite a relief to be talking about an index actually hitting a 52-week high for a change.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

FCC Relaxes Ownership Rules

While admitting it's "not the popular answer," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell helped pass controversial new changes this morning that relax media ownership restrictions. That increases the possibility of consolidation within the industry, and sent shares of media stocks higher.

Under the changes, a single company can now own a newspaper and television or radio station in the same market. Also, the major networks -- Viacom's(NYSE: VIA) CBS, General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC, Disney's(NYSE: DIS) ABC, and News Corp.'s(NYSE: NWS) Fox -- will be allowed to own more local stations and extend their reach to 45% of the country, instead of the current 35%.

The FCC did, however, retain ownership limits for radio broadcasters. That drew a sharp response from Clear Channel Communications(NYSE: CCU), which owns over 1,000 stations nationwide -- and which critics accuse of using a bland, cookie-cutter approach that provides less local news and programming. "This FCC action will extinguish the substantial consumer benefits brought on by radio deregulation in 1996," it said in a statement.

The 3-2 vote split along party lines on the FCC panel. Nationwide, however, groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association and the National Organization for Women came together to oppose the changes. Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps spoke for the minority when he said, "I think we are damaging localism, diversity and competition, making it harder for alternative viewpoints and information to see the light of day."

Powell, however, counters that the current rules are having a hard time holding up on a legal basis, and that letting them stand would lead to "disastrous" results if they were overturned in court.

Quotes of Note

"I must punctuate one irreducible point: Keeping the rules exactly as they are, as some so stridently suggest, was not a viable option. Without today's surgery, the rules would assuredly meet a swift death." -- Michael Powell, FCC chairman

"This experience [with radio deregulation] should terrify us as we consider visiting upon television and newspapers what we have inflicted upon radio. "Clear Channelization" of the rest of the American media will harm our country." -- Michael J. Copps, FCC commissioner

Cisco Rings BellSouth

Networking giant Cisco Systems(Nasdaq: CSCO) today inked a deal with regional telephone company BellSouth(NYSE: BLS) that should benefit both firms. Through the new pact, Cisco will provide optical networking technology for BellSouth's old-school voice lines that will boost traffic through them. It will also supply other equipment to BellSouth that should expand the carrier's data service offerings.

The deal is for four years, but financial terms weren't disclosed. But even without knowing the amount of green involved, it's safe to say that this is a very good thing for Cisco.

BellSouth reaches more than 44 million customers in nine Southern states. By partnering with Cisco, both companies will benefit from economies of scale and cost efficiencies. BellSouth will get Cisco's corporate (or enterprise) business know-how, and Cisco will gain access to BellSouth's business customers.

Cisco's been trying to reach further into the traditional carrier market, following its focus several years ago on alternative telecommunications carriers that have since gone bust. It would like to increase the portion of revenues it receives from telecom providers (as opposed to businesses) to 40% in the next five years, and this deal puts it solidly on that path.

The reliability of Cisco's technology has been one concern for the local phone companies. BellSouth said it put Cisco's goods to the test for almost two years before signing the deal. This relationship necessarily gives Cisco's networking gear much more credibility.

This is a big win for Cisco, and for BellSouth as well. Shareholders in both companies should be pleased.

How to Allocate Your Assets

Our latest online seminar, Perfect Your Portfolio: Asset Allocation for Long-Term Wealth, starts today. But it's not too late to sign up! Among other things, learn how and when to diversify your stock portfolio. It could be the best thing to happen to your future. And as with all our seminars, it comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. You have nothing to lose!

What Nemo Found

Memo to Michael Eisner: You blew it!

As Pixar's(Nasdaq: PIXR)Finding Nemo scored an amazing $70.6 million run on movie tickets over the weekend, is there any doubt who the real leader in animation is these days? Sure, Disney(NYSE: DIS) is in for half of the take on this project and Pixar's next two releases, but it is now painstakingly obvious that Pixar is no fluke and teaming up with Disney at the expense of leaving half of the profits on the table is now just silly.

Pixar is now rich enough to finance its own releases, and the sad truth is that it would have been even richer if it didn't have to cut Disney in on the action in the first place.

In just this one opening weekend, Nemo has been able to outgross what Disney's last two animated releases (Jungle Book 2 and Piglet Movie) produced at the box office in their entire theatrical runs earlier this year, combined. And, yes, this is nearly double the $38 million that last year's much-hyped flop Treasure Planet generated for Disney before it moved on to the home-video market.

While Disney can still hit it out of the park from time to time, like it did with last summer's Lilo & Stitch, it has become an inconsistent pinch-hitter while Pixar is now 5-for-5 at the plate.

Nemo's domestic gross over the weekend is not only a new record for Pixar, but also for the entire animated feature genre. And when you consider that the company's first four releases have averaged $214 million stateside and this fish tale is trending considerably higher, it's easy to come back to the deal that Pixar and Disney inked before the apprentice surpassed the aging master.

Pixar's deal with Disney ends in two years with the delivery of The Incredibles and Cars. Pixar is now free to negotiate with any studio, and, for obvious reasons, it is sure to attract the interest of rival companies that would be willing to wave the Pixar banner at the local multiplex for little more than a token distribution fee and family entertainment bragging rights.

So it's easy to second-guess Disney, which should have been drawn to renegotiate on better terms before Pixar became a prized free agent. You also have to wonder what could have happened if Disney had considered a buyout of Pixar a year and a half ago, when shares of the computer animator were fetching half of today's prices. Yes, it would have involved Apple's(Nasdaq: AAPL) Steve Jobs' approval since he is Pixar's majority shareholder, but sitting down at the bargaining table now that Pixar is flying high in every sense of the word is going to cost Disney one way or the other.

Finding Nemo is the story of a clownfish who loses so many loved ones early on that he becomes overprotective of his only child. Those tight reins ultimately cost him in an act of defiance. This is the same scene playing out today between Disney and Pixar. The one difference: we all know that Nemo packs a happy ending.

Discussion Board of the Day: Pixar

So, what did you think of Finding Nemo? Can Pixar do no wrong? What should the studio do about its deal with Disney? All this and more -- in the Pixar discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced after the bell today that it has received notice of a formal SEC probe relating to revenue recognition in 2000 and 2001. The company says it's currently a "fact-finding investigation" that it believes arose from a separate probe into a customer of IBM's Retail Store Solutions unit.

It was a good day in the drug sector. First, shares of ImClone Systems(Nasdaq: IMCLE) rose 6% on the ironic news that the cancer drug Erbitux may be effective after all. It was bad news about Erbitux that collared former CEO Samuel Waksal with insider-trading troubles... troubles that spread to his family as well as friend Martha Stewart.

Also today, Genentech(NYSE: DNA) got a 10% boost after it said its drug Avastin, combined with chemotherapy, gave patients a 50% increase in their chance for survival compared to those who received chemotherapy alone.

Good news for potential car buyers, but not so good for the industry: DaimlerChrysler(NYSE: DCX) says it will be extending its 0% financing on most Chrysler unit vehicles through Sept. 2. The "Summer Sales Drive" will also extend cash allowances of up to $4,500 on select vehicles.

In local news, finance teacher Jacqueline Marie asked her class if they knew about The Pitfalls of 0% Financing.

And Finally...

Today on

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim