Once more, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) drove the gains as the Big Idea Portfolio expanded its double-digit lead over the S&P 500 index. I'm going head to head with the index in a three-year showdown to see who's better at producing returns for investors:


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Apple $420.59** $663.22 57.7%
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) $650.09 $678.63 4.4%
Rackspace Hosting $41.65 $57.63 38.4%
Riverbed Technology $25.95 $20.52 (20.9%)
Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) $100.93 $148.54 47.2%
Average return -- -- 25.36%
S&P 500 SPDR $126.50** $141.51 11.87%
Difference -- -- 13.49%

Source: Yahoo! Finance. *Tracking began at market close on Jan. 6, 2012. **Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

My portfolio's lead widened by two percentage points thanks to a turbulent market that finished lower after a five-week winning streak. The small-cap Russell 2000 led indexes lower with a 1.31% decline last week. None of the other three majors finished down 1% or more, though the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.88%. The S&P 500 fell 0.5%, while Apple buoyed the Nasdaq, which fell just 0.22%, according to CNBC.

Notable newsmakers
Markets wibbled and wobbled as investors awaited from the Federal Reserve, which could come this week when major U.S. central bankers meet in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Europe's top banker, Mario Draghi, is also expected to be present at the meeting. We don't yet know if regulators will discuss a plan to act, but in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the bank may have cause for "further action" to support economic recovery and thereby prop up worldwide bond and stock markets.

Apple doesn't need the help. Already surging on expectations for the forthcoming iPhone and the potential for a new Apple TV, the Mac maker was up nearly 2% in early trading today following a U.S. court victory in its high-profile patent dispute with Samsung. Jurors ruled that Samsung had infringed on six of Apple's iPhone patents, awarding $1.05 billion in damages and kicking off what's sure to be a years-long appeals process.

More importantly, Apple has -- for the time being, at least -- gutted its most important rival for smartphone market share here in the U.S., leaving a huge opportunity not only for the iEmpire, but also for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which have been working together to establish a foothold with new handsets based on Mr. Softy's Windows Phone OS. Shares of Nokia were up more than 8% in morning trading.

Both Rackspace and salesforce.com rallied on what appears to be increased confidence in the long-term potential for cloud computing. In particular, salesforce.com finished the week up a bit more than 2.5% as second-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings beat estimates. Sales rose 34% year over year, confirming a recent Piper Jaffray tech spending survey of mid- and large-sized company chief information officers. According to Barron's, these CIOs rank salesforce.com as the top cloud player, followed by Microsoft, Amazon.com, and then Google.

What are you buying now?
As much as Apple is driving gains for the Big Idea portfolio so far, there's still a lot we don't know about the company's long-term strategy to own tablets or even TVs. That's why we've introduced a new premium Apple research service with a kick-off report that details the opportunities and challenges in store for shareholders. The research includes a full year of updates, so get your copy today.

I'll see you back here over the weekend for more tech stock talk. In the meantime, if you'd like to tell us more about a Rule Breaker in the making that you believe is being unfairly maligned or ignored, please do so using the comments just below.