Welcome to week 141 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers.


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Harris & Harris$6.22$4.92(20.9%)
Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE: TSM)$9.35**$13.7547.1%
S&P 500 SPDR$120.04**$134.2011.79%

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

I'm back on the scoreboard this week, but Mr. Market and I seem to have settled within a range that has kept me up at least 15 percentage points for most of the past year. Will my lead hold through the final summer of this three-year contest? A recent run of strong tech earnings reports gives me hope.

A little luck also helps. All four of the major indexes took losses this week -- a week that saw the end of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden -- with the small-cap Russell 2000, down 3.69%, leading the laggards. The S&P 500 ended down 1.72% while the Nasdaq closed off 1.6%. The Dow 30 fell 1.34%, CNBC reports.

But winners exist in every market, and at least one of this week's top dogs soared on a rich buyout offer. Applied Materials bid $4.9 billion for Varian Semiconductor (Nasdaq: VSEA), sending the stock up 51%. International Coal Group (NYSE: ICO) soared 31%, after Arch Coal bid $3.4 billion for the company.

The week in tech
Buyouts have become common fare for tech investors as well, but this week was marked by a deal of a different kind. On Monday, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) settled seven years' worth of patent litigation with DISH Network and EchoStar for $500 million in cash payments to be made over the next six years.

Sony (NYSE: SNE) could find itself paying up next. A second data breach of its PlayStation Network may have affected another 24.6 million users and has regulators in the U.S., Europe, and Japan taking a closer look at the electronics giant's security practices, Dow Jones reports. CEO Howard Stringer has since apologized, though some observers say that's not enough.

Finally, in earnings news, IPG Photonics (Nasdaq: IPGP) put up another strong quarter. Revenue jumped 95% while earnings beat the average analyst consensus by $0.04 a share. Neither result was enough for investors, and the stock sold off by more than 12% following the report.

At ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK), organic growth returned. The Internet marketer and ad server saw revenue climb 22% year over year, reversing a recent trend of needing share buybacks to boost profits. Investors responded to the news by bidding up the stock as much as 20% in Wednesday's trading session.

Finally, Demand Media temporarily assuaged some investors' fears by reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results. Revenue grew 50% before accounting for traffic-acquisition costs, and profit doubled to $0.06 share. The stock rallied by as much as 17% following the report yet remains off 30% month to date.

That makes sense. Demand's disruption of the traditional media business is driven more by price than innovation, and results could prove unsustainable. I'd much rather bet on technical changes that are reshaping industries. History tells us that when technology shifts take hold and become mainstream, billions in new stock market wealth are created.

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

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

  • Taiwan Semiconductor continued its rally -- the stock is up more than 7% over the past month -- after the Semiconductor Industry Association this week confirmed continued growth in the chip sector. Overall semiconductor sales rose 0.4% from Q4 to Q1 and 8.6% over last year's first quarter.

There's your checkup. See you back here next weekend for more tech-stock talk. In the meantime, don't forget to keep up with my tech portfolio by adding these stocks to your watchlist today: