Welcome to week 115 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers.


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Akamai $22.23 $53.63 141.2%
Harris & Harris $6.22 $4.50 (27.7%)
IBM $124.01** $146.79 18.4%
Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) $22.40** $29.47 31.6%
Taiwan Semiconductor $9.35** $11.26 20.4%
AVERAGE RETURN -- -- 36.78%
S&P 500 SPDR $121.20** $122.26 0.87%
DIFFERENCE -- -- 35.91

Source: Yahoo! Finance.
*Tracking began on Aug. 7, 2008.
**Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Can I get a round of applause for Mr. Market? After endless months in the red, his returns are finally -- though marginally -- in the black. Congratulations, sir.

Not that indexers should get cocky. Here at the Fool, we believe in stock picking, and this week introduced a new collection of portfolios under the banner "Rising Stars." Fools whom I call friends and colleagues are managing real-money portfolios with the long-term goal of crushing the market even more than I am now:

  • Alyce Lomax, one of our top retail writers and analysts, is betting on corporate do-gooders such as footwear and apparel retailer Timberland (NYSE: TBL).
  • Eric Bleeker, who edits this column when he isn't writing about tech, may very well produce a portfolio like this one. First among his picks: Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS), a maker of chips for audio devices and the energy sector.
  • Sean Sun, a colleague of mine at Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and Ilan Moscovitz are creating a portfolio of international growth stocks. China Yida (Nasdaq: CNYD), which oversees some of that country's top tourist attractions, is their first pick. It's already up by 22% as of this writing.
  • And longtime Fool Rex Moore is using sharp stock screening to build a balanced portfolio. For those who don't know, Rex was responsible for the market-beating Modified Foolish 8 small-cap screen that was a recurring feature in the early issues of Motley Fool Hidden Gems

I'm confident that each of these Fools will do well with their picks. But I'm also sure there will be bumps along the way to collecting gains. Why? All signs point to a worsening of the mortgage mess before it gets better.

Not that you'd know it from most of the reporting out there. Blaming homeowners for overborrowing distracts from the problematic truth that big banks don't know enough about what they hold.

The week in tech
None of the biggest and best in tech faces the same problem. If anything, they're blessed with too much cash and too many resources. This week, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) showed us what's possible when you put some of that moolah to work.

The company's new Kinect system for the Xbox 360 uses a camera and motion sensors to create a lifelike avatar for immersive gaming without a controller. It's a breakthrough that, in many ways, appears to leapfrog Nintendo's motion-sensing Wii controllers by an order of magnitude. Mr. Softy predicts that it will sell 5 million of the $150 add-ons by Christmas, media reports say.

Despite the good news, Microsoft shares have barely budged this week, up less than 1%. That's the sort of middling performance that's sure to make MannKind (Nasdaq: MNKD) shareholders envious. That stock fell by as much as 18% on Thursday, after previously unknown details of a lawsuit brought by the company's former regulatory-affairs director, John Arditi, were made public. Arditi charges company officials with "scientific misconduct" in the testing of its inhaled-insulin treatment in trials conducted in Bulgaria and Russia.

Company officials released a statement in response. In it, officials say Arditi was dismissed for reasons unrelated to his allegations and that an internal investigation affirmed MannKind's procedures as sound and free of deception.

Should Fools treat the fall as a buying opportunity? Perhaps. It is, after all, disruptors such as MannKind that have the best odds of becoming millionaire-maker stocks.

Look at David Gardner. He produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breaker portfolio by betting on a collection of innovators and then holding them for the long term. Tom Gardner's "simpleton portfolio" was also a 10-year winner. I believe that with my tech portfolio, I will achieve similar success.

Checkup time!
Now let's move on to the rest of today's update:

  • Oracle and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) are after each other once more. The database king plans to subpoena new HP chief executive Leo Apotheker in its legal battle with his former employer, SAP. HP has no plans to cooperate. SAP has offered $120 million to settle part of the lawsuit, but for now the trial continues. Expect this to get ugly, Fools.

There's your checkup. See you back here next week for more tech-stock talk.

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