Welcome to week 36 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers:

Company

Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Akamai

$22.23

$20.47

(7.9%)

Harris & Harris

$6.22

$5.01

(19.5%)

IBM

$127.64**

$101.27

(20.7%)

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

$22.69**

$19.06

(15.9%)

Taiwan Semiconductor

$10.34

$9.60

(7.2%)

AVERAGE RETURN

--

--

(14.24%)

S&P 500 SPDR (NYSE:SPY)

$124.37**

$87.08

(29.98%)

DIFFERENCE

--

--

15.74

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

Another week, another market rally. Banks, in particular, are seeing huge gains. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is now a multibagger from its recent lows. So is Wells Fargo, even if it might be $50 billion short of the capital it needs to repay its TARP obligations.

Yet the euphoria has us asking: Is the worst finally over?

There's really no telling. Even as critics paint them as unpatriotic, credit card companies are also earning interest on a lot less debt than they were before. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that revolving credit balances fell an annualized 9.7% in February -- the largest decline in more than three decades.

Meanwhile, there's wide disagreement over whether China's proposed stimulus plan will change the world, enriching investors in emergent Sino superstars such as American Oriental Bioengineering (NYSE:AOB). Investing in anything other than the very best stocks feels like a crapshoot.

The week in tech
It's unclear whether the tech sector will be your most likely source the very best stocks. I've been arguing that for months, but recent news casts doubt on my thesis.

Twitter once again suffered trouble when an obnoxious bundle of mischievous code called Mikeyy attacked the service. The targets: Oprah, Ashton, Ellen, Demi and the multitudes following them. No serious damage was done -- as far as we know -- but the breach once again raises questions about the security of cloud computing.

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) also spent part of the week with pie on its face. The auctioneer announced plans to take its telephony unit public in the first half of next year. What do you want to bet the company won't get back anything near the $1.4 billion it wrote off in 2007?

Sad? Sure, but eBay CEO John Donahoe is shrewd to shed Skype and spend $1.2 billion for Gmarket (NASDAQ:GMKT), a competitor that enabled $3.2 billion worth of transactions in South Korea last year. Gmarket has the obvious synergy that the Skype deal lacked.

Meanwhile, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) led a tech rally after CEO Paul Otellini called a market bottom for PCs while reporting sluggish first-quarter results. The implication? Consumers are slowly beginning to spend on tech gear once again.

I hope Otellini's right. And yet it could be months or even years before we see a full recovery. Investors are best served by exercising prudence -- picking only the very best stocks, and staying patient when waiting for gains. That's how David Gardner produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breaker portfolio. Tom Gardner's "simpleton portfolio" was also a 10-year winner. With these five tech stocks, I believe I'll achieve similar success.

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

  • Oracle stepped in when Big Blue stepped away. Earlier today, CEO Larry Ellison announced a $9.50 cash-and-debt acquisition of Sun that values the business at $7.4 billion. Look for more on the implications of this deal at Fool.com in the coming days.

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

Get your clicks with more techie Foolishness:

Akamai, Harris & Harris, and Gmarket are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. eBay and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. eBay is also a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, and American Oriental Bioengineering is a recommendation of both the Motley Fool Global Gains and Motley Fool Hidden Gems services. The Fool also owns shares of American Bioengineering and Intel, plus covered calls of Intel. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of 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.