Welcome to week 30 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers:


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return





Harris & Harris












Taiwan Semiconductor
















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

After weeks of outpacing Mr. Market in this contest, I've finally opened a double-digit lead. I'm simply losing less. A truly awful week for stocks -- a week in which the major indices fell to 12-year lows -- was worse for Mr. Market than it was for my tech portfolio.

And I'm not the only one who's seen this. This week, Fool co-founder David Gardner, captain of the stock-picking pirate ship we call Motley Fool Rule Breakers, observed a decoupling in the markets when, on Tuesday, a popular index tracking bank stocks fell 5% on a day when the S&P 500 rose 2%.

The implication? Excellent stocks, and thereby excellent stock pickers, could finally begin to leave the laggards in the dust. I hope he's right; I'm tired of watching AIG (NYSE:AIG) and Citigroup (NYSE:C), stocks that I don't own, stick it to my portfolio.

The week in tech
It's frustrating when they do, because there's plenty of good news coming from the world of tech. Consider Twitter. BusinessWeek reports that the microblogger, whose valuation I peg at $1 billion, is in talks with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Kudos to my friend Rick Munarriz; he called this deal on Tuesday. If BusinessWeek is correct, and if history is a fair guide, we'll see news of a pairing in about two weeks. That's not much time, Microsoft. Get out your checkbook. TwitGoo would be very bad for you.

Late last week, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) reported shrinking margins and lower earnings, but its performance was far better than the headlines suggested. The PC maker generated better than $400 million in free cash flow, even after accounting for stock options largesse. That's a remarkable number in an economy like this.

Tech also had its troubles, of course. Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) told investors that revenue in the current quarter could be off by as much as 70% as it methodically prepares to roll out its new Pre smartphone. Calls for a sale of the company to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) or a similar suitor soon followed. I'm unconvinced; Elevation Partners has committed far too much capital to let Palm fail now.

And while there are more stories like Palm's out there, history shows that panicky markets like these reward prudence in picking stocks and patience in waiting for gains. That's how David Gardner produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breakers portfolio. Tom Gardner's "simpleton portfolio" was also a 10-year winner. I believe that, with these five tech stocks, I will achieve similar success.

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

  • The Wall Street Journal is reporting that analysts are mixed about what to expect when Oracle reports earnings on March 18. I'm not counting on a blowout, but with its ability to manage margins and squeeze cash from its operations, I believe that the leading database software supplier is better positioned than most.
  • Shares of Taiwan Semiconductor rose this week after it secured a contract to manufacture some of Intel's small-scale Atom processors for use in netbooks. Color me unsurprised.

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

Get your clicks with more techie Foolishness:

Dell, Intel, and Microsoft are Inside Value selections. Akamai, Google, and Harris & Harris are Rule Breakers recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Intel and short calls on Intel. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google and stock positions in Akamai, 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.

The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.