Welcome to week 117 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers.


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Akamai $22.23 $48.76 119.3%
Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY) $6.22 $4.42 (28.9%)
IBM $123.46** $144.36 16.9%
Oracle $22.40** $28.31 26.4%
Taiwan Semiconductor $9.35** $11.04 18.1%
AVERAGE RETURN -- -- 30.36%
S&P 500 SPDR $121.20** $119.96 (1.02%)
DIFFERENCE -- -- 31.38

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

Another week means another victory for Mr. Market in our three-year battle for investing supremacy. Yet neither of us really won. Stocks suffered losses in the face of continued worries over quantitative easing, or QE2.

Skeptics argue that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn't understand the damage the government is creating by running the currency printing presses. Their criticism ranges from the searing to the hilarious, and Bernanke has apparently heard enough.

"The best way to continue to deliver the strong economic fundamentals that underpin the value of the dollar, as well as to support the global recovery, is through policies that lead to a resumption of robust growth in a context of price stability in the United States," he said in comments made this week at a conference of European central bankers.

Investors can hardly be blamed for being confused. The world can't decide on the best way to get the global economy back on its feet. Shortly after the European Union proposed a rescue of Ireland's banking system, Chinese regulators talked up the need for financial institutions to increase reserves to prevent future bailouts.

Austerity won't come easy. Shares of Allied Irish Banks (NYSE: AIB) and Bank of Ireland (NYSE: IRE) ended their double-digit rallies when AIB said it would need further funding from the European Central Bank.

The week in tech
In this particular sense, tech investors have been fortunate. Software developers, chipmakers, and systems designers haven't had to go begging for change the way banks and old-tech industries have.

Among old-tech bailouts, none stands taller than General Motors (NYSE: GM). The resurgent automaker's stock is trading publicly once more and may even be a bargain thanks to (what else?) tech.

Chevy's Volt electric car is selling out across the country. General Electric will buy 12,000 Volts as part of a plan to replace the bulk of its 30,000-vehicle fleet with electrics, The Detroit News reports.

Overseas, an ad war broke out. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) this week committed to bring its iAd interactive advertising platform to iOS 4 devices operating in the U.K. and France next month. Germany will follow in January.

In the short term, it's a bold move against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and its surging Android smartphone operating system. Long-term, it looks like the first step in establishing Apple as a go-to platform for smart advertising that follows you as you travel.

Finally, on Friday, we were fortunate to host Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX) chief executive Lanham Napier for a live chat at Fool.com. Check out the transcript.

Why Rackspace? Simple: It's the sort of disruptor we prize at Motley Fool Rule Breakers because it has many of the ingredients common to millionaire-maker stocks.

And we've seen many. 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.

  • Harris & Harris filed its latest shareholder letter. In it, management reaffirmed its earlier belief that it won't need to raise additional capital, citing the $44 million in cash on the books at the end of the last quarter. Regardless, the stock continues to trade for a discount to its $4.51 per share in net asset value.

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

Get your clicks with more techie Foolishness:

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Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Akamai, Google, and Rackspace Hosting are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Google is also a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and stock positions in Akamai, Google, Harris & Harris, IBM, Oracle, and Taiwan Semiconductor at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, IBM, and Oracle. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.