Watching corporate insiders is like participating in a weeks-long stakeout. You expect something to happen, but you don't know what. So you settle in, sip your coffee, and wait for clues to solving the big case.

Here, the "case" is direction: Which way is your stock headed? The "clues" come in the form of insider buying and selling action. Check out the action going on at Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) over the past year:

Insider Rating

Moderately bullish (Strong levels of insider buying, but mostly at levels well below what we're seeing today.)

Business Description

Leading maker for global positioning systems used in vehicles. Also working on a GPS-enabled smartphone, the Nuviphone.

Recent Price


CAPS Stars (Out of 5)


Percentage of Shares Owned by Insiders


Net Buying (Selling)*

$1.54 million

Last Buyer (% Increase)

Thomas McDonnell, director
20,000 shares at $22.36 apiece on May 8, 2009
(Purchase bolstered direct holdings by 50%)

Last Seller (% Decrease)

None over the prior 12 months


Nokia (NYSE:NOK)

CAPS Members Bullish on GRMN Also Bullish on


CAPS Members Bearish on GRMN Also Bearish on

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX)
Citigroup (NYSE:C)

Recent Foolish Coverage of GRMN

5 Stocks Making Cash
Don't Sell That Stock!
3 Ridiculously Cheap, High-Quality Companies

Sources Form 4 Oracle, Capital IQ, and Motley Fool CAPS. (Data current as of July 23, 2009.)
*Open-market sales and purchases only.

What we're tracking here, and why
Insider buying data can be confusing. Here, I'm concentrating only on buying and selling conducted in the open market. With most of these transactions, insiders control the timing. Other times, they're buying or selling under the purview of a 10b5-1 plan. Either way, personal holdings are being bought and sold.

Personal holdings matter most -- they're the shares executives hold for investment, rather than compensation. Employee stock options are different; they're compensatory in the purest sense. I've stripped out options-related buying and selling from the calculations you see above.

The Foolish view = moderately bullish
Fools have an understandably mixed view of Garmin. My Foolish friend Rick Munarriz encourages you to throw the stock away, even as our Motley Fool Global Gains team still recommends holding shares.

Insiders have been buying in the last year, but mostly at levels well below what the stock trades for today. For example, President and Chief Operating Officer Clifton Pemble purchased 2,500 shares for $14.64 apiece in November 2008. He's sitting on close to a double as of this writing.

Yet there may still be an opportunity to profit on Garmin. The Obama administration's "Cash for Clunkers" program should put more new cars on the road. Any number of suppliers of auto gear could benefit, and new auto sales should help drive uptake of Garmin's global positioning systems and Sirius XM's (NASDAQ:SIRI) satellite radios.

But that's my take. Do you agree? Disagree? Log into CAPS today and tell us how you would rate Garmin.

And if you want me to take a Foolish peek at the insider action of your favorite stock, email me here or use the comments box below. I'll write this column as often as readers like you demand it.

Get more of the inside scoop with related Foolishness:

Garmin is a Global Gains recommendation. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple and Starbucks are Stock Advisor selections. Nokia and Starbucks are Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and Google and a stock position in Nokia at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool owned shares of Starbucks and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has its eye on you.