Welcome to week 46 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








S&P 500 SPDR








Source: Yahoo! Finance.

* Tracking began on Aug. 7, 2008.

** Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Mr. Market mostly stayed still as my tech portfolio improved, adding 32 basis points to my lead as we near the one-year mark in this contest.

Still, it was a mixed week. Even the best earnings reports were anything but great. FedEx (NYSE:FDX) topped estimates, but revenue fell 20% last quarter. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Carnival (NYSE:CCL) also posted lower profit year over year, but in each case earnings beat the Street's projections.

Also on the plus side, Bruce Yandle, interim dean of Clemson University's business school, says that indicators show that the economy is bottoming. Principally, he's referring to the Institute for Supply Management's services and manufacturing indexes. Both have been heading higher in recent weeks, although they're still below levels that would indicate economic growth.

Meanwhile, plenty of risks remain. Household debt hovers at unsustainable levels, suggesting the need for a broader deleveraging that could torpedo consumer spending and thereby economic growth for many, many years. Low economic growth isn't good for stocks.

The week in tech
Nor is it good for tech stocks, which depend on ever-higher capital spending on new hardware, software, and services. The money isn't there right now. IT managers are instead opting for common, low-cost parts and software to upgrade their infrastructures. Not a good sign for makers of Big Engine servers such as Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA).

Still, many techies did fairly well this week. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs returned: The Wall Street Journal last weekend reported that Jobs had undergone liver transplant surgery, a story that has since been confirmed.

Where was the disclosure of this seemingly material event when it happened? Good question. Apple isn't answering, choosing instead to tell us how it sold 1 million iPhone 3G S handsets during its first weekend of release. Nice try. Disclosure isn't a privilege, it's a responsibility, Apple.

Palm (NASDAQ:PALM), meanwhile, is sticking it to skeptics today. The stock is up more than 15% on positive comments made by newly appointed CEO Jon Rubinstein about the launch of the Pre smartphone.

"The most important indicator of our success is that customer response has been simply great, especially to Palm webOS," Rubinstein said in announcing fourth-quarter earnings Thursday. "Just as Palm pioneered PDAs in the 90s, we believe it has now pioneered the mobile operating platform for the next 10 years and beyond."

Is he right? I have some doubts, but Palm deserves the time to work out its strategy. Besides, history says to bet on tech over very long periods, as David Gardner has. He produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breaker 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:

  • Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Tuesday signaled his intent to conquer the cloud in reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter and full-year earnings. "We think we can be the number one applications company, the number one on-premise application company and the number one on-demand application company," Ellison said. Color me intrigued.

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

Get your clicks with more techie Foolishness:

Akamai and Harris & Harris are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple, Best Buy, and FedEx are Stock Advisor selections. Best Buy is an Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple 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 owns shares of Best Buy and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.