Welcome to week 75 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.

My tech portfolio eked out another modest gain in this contest, even as stocks are proving to be exceptionally volatile. I'm nervous that my 2010 market forecast -- if you can call it that -- will prove prescient.

The best opportunities aren't available at the best prices. Instead, great companies such as Visa (NYSE:V) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) are trading at expensive multiples.

Bad businesses are expensive, too. Consider Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD). Caught in a brutally competitive market, the retailer trades for 44 times projected earnings -- a crazy multiple for a turnaround franchise that has yet to turn all the way around.

Banks are also taking it on the chin. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) each fell more than 6% yesterday, after President Obama proposed new legislation that would limit proprietary trading, unhinge banks from hedge funds and private equity, and strengthen deposit caps. The goal? To limit the chance we'll be stuck with another too-big-too-fail financial Atlas. Whether the proposal is feasible, or even good, is a matter of debate. (For the record, I'm in favor of the new rules.)

The week in tech
In tech, we've never seen a too-big-too-fail scenario -- only too-big-to-let others succeed. IBM and Microsoft have each taken turns under the antitrust microscope, and now Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is a potential target.

Last night's earnings report won't diminish any concerns the feds might have. The Big G reported a 17% increase in quarterly revenue, and adjusted earnings soared 33%. Paid clicks rose 13% over the same period, which suggests that Google is successfully raising prices.

The report follows good numbers from several top techies with heavy foreign interests, including Intel and Infosys (NASDAQ:INFY). A broader tech rally could take some time to reach our shores, but the fundamental data is encouraging.

Apple, meanwhile, is now less than a week away from announcing the iSlate, and investors are salivating. Breathless reports in The Wall Street Journal and here speculate that CEO Steve Jobs is out to remake the publishing industry, much like iTunes has helped transform the music business.

Disruption is the rule rather than the exception in tech, and the resulting volatility can destroy even a good tech portfolio. Patience and diversification are the keys to unlocking long-term gains.

Look at David Gardner. He produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breaker portfolio by betting on a broad portfolio of innovators and holding for the long-term. Tom Gardner's "simpleton portfolio" was also a 10-year winner. With my tech portfolio, I believe that I will achieve similar success.

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

  • After months of public hand-wringing, the European Commission this week approved Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems. All I can add is, it's about freaking time.
  • On Tuesday, IBM reported good fourth-quarter results and big balance sheet improvements. Debt not related to customer purchases fell 61% from last year's Q4. The interest savings alone accounted for almost 29% of Big Blue's net income.

There's your checkup. Now, instead of ending this article with further links, I'm going to ask that you take a look at the Foolish ways you can help those suffering in Haiti.

Thank you for considering this worthy cause, and see you back here next week.

Apple and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Akamai, Google, and Harris & Harris are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Intel, Microsoft, and Sears Holdings are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Motley Fool Options recommended diagonal calls on Microsoft and buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and stock positions in Akamai, Google, 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 Oracle and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.