Welcome to week 134 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers:


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY)$6.22$4.97(20.1%)
IBM (NYSE: IBM)$122.97**$155.8926.8%
Taiwan Semiconductor$9.35**$11.7525.7%
S&P 500 SPDR$120.04**$127.766.43%

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

There go another 123 basis points. Investors trust neither tech nor the indexes, but they trust tech less. Call it the curse of Facebook and Twitter, whose high valuations appear to have investors wondering if another tech bubble is about to burst.

Some have begun to abandon tech issues altogether. The tech-heavy Nasdaq once more led a week of losses to become the first U.S. stock index to turn negative in 2011, down 0.35% year to date. The S&P 500, off 1.92%, put up the week's second-worst performance while the Dow 30 fell 1.54%. Small-cap stocks did considerably better but still declined as the Russell 2000 ended off 1.02%, CNBC reports.

Bulls hoping for better news in the week ahead may be disappointed. Over the weekend, United Nations forces began missile attacks on forces controlled by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The possibility of escalating violence there could put pressure on oil stocks and the overall market, according to some top investors in Motley Fool CAPS.

"Sold four positions Friday for a 100% profit. Not a good time to be a market timer. I have been sounding the alarm since early February," wrote All-Star topsecret10 in a weekend blog post.

In spite of gains today, cash may very well prove to the best option over the next several months. Yet every market offers moneymaking opportunities. Biotech and energy offered the biggest gains last week. Cell Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CTIC) rose 47% to lead all gainers while Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway lifted shares of Lubrizol (NYSE: LZ) 27% with a $9.7 billion acquisition bid.

The week in tech
Silicon Valley's news cycle was far quieter, with Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) breaking the big news. The networker ended months of speculation when it announced its first dividend during the week, a $0.06-a-share payment due after the close of the current quarter.

Those who've been waiting for Cisco to pay up are sure to break out the cigars and champagne. And why not? Some dividend is better than none. Just don't let the payout lure you in if you aren't already a shareholder. The stock yields just 1.4% versus 1.7% for the average S&P 500 indexer.

Investors seeking long-term capital gains might do better with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). The Big G upgraded its iPhone app and, according to reports, is in discussions with VeriFone to create payment terminals that would accept wireless signals from an Android phone, transforming it into a digital wallet. The underlying technology is known as near-field communications (NFC).

Years could pass before NFC becomes commonplace. In the meantime, a global debate over the safety of nuclear power reared its ugly head again last week, sending shares of nuclear suppliers lower while solar stocks rallied. Among the more extreme cases, shares of General Electric fell more than 5% as First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) gained 7%.

Concerns stem from the disaster that's wrecked the Japanese coast and pushed a nuclear plant there to the brink of meltdown. The whole affair is a human tragedy that's become a hairball choking politicians. Investors seem convinced they'll approve additional funding for solar to jar it loose. I agree.

But the money would have come anyway, eventually. Disruptive innovation happens in every market, every political climate, and every budget cycle, and few ideas are more head shaking than replacing coal-fired plants with mirrors. Bold leaps like these are what produce billions for bold investors.

But don't take my word for it. 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:

  • IBM agreed to pay a $10 million fine to settle civil charges relating to alleged bribes, trips, and improper gifts paid to Asian officials by employees in the region from 1998 to 2009, Dow Jones reports. The settlement is pending court approval.
  • On Friday, Harris & Harris held a call with investors to dig into its fourth-quarter report. Net asset value (NAV) per share rose once more, this time to $4.76, but those hoping for much larger gains in the year ahead may need more catalysts. Why? Valuations. Harris & Harris values its largest VC investment -- a sub-5% stake in Solayzme -- at $23.2 million, which assumes a likely total market value of $580 million to $780 million when the company comes public later this year. Assuming that's fair, it doesn't leave a lot of room for a premium exit at IPO. In its S-1 filing, Solazyme estimated its enterprise value at $492.3 million.

There's your checkup. See you back here next weekend for more tech stock talk. In the meantime, don't forget to keep up with my tech portfolio by adding all five stocks to Your Watchlist:

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.