The Nasdaq fought hard to finish in positive territory today for the first time in over a week. And reportedly, investors are anxiously awaiting tomorrow's Federal Open Market Committee meeting to see if the Fed will raise interest rates.

One thing's for sure: No matter what the Fed does, our approach to trying to find the best stocks possible -- month in and month out -- will not change.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Im Clone's Buy-and-Hold Lesson

By Rich Smith

In a classic series of articles preserved for posterity on this website, Fool writer Randy Befumo laid bare the "long-term buy-and-hold" (LTBH) philosophy to Fool readers. His conclusion: "Market timing is bunk." I want to quote two lines of that conclusion today, describing the difficulty of timing "buys" and "sells" based on predictions of short-term price movements):

To miss the worst days and not miss the best days you have to have perfect timing. And given that the returns for the best single day or month often occur right after those of the worst single day or month, perfect timing is really important.

Got that? Not just good timing or great timing will suffice. Only perfect timing will succeed.

Now, an investor may be bright. She may know a company very well. Yet, even that may not be enough to make her timing "perfect." Take Martha Stewart. It is hard to argue that this lady is not bright. And ImClone Systems(Nasdaq: IMCL), the company she is most famous for investing in -- after Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Martha Stewart LivingOmnimedia(NYSE: MSO), of course -- is one she knew very well. Why, she even knew its CEO very well!

Yet, for all her intelligence, for all her knowledge of ImClone (insider and otherwise), look at how horribly wrong her attempt at timing the market went.

Granted, she managed to sell some shares just before ImClone stock plunged 75% in value. So she avoided some short-term losses (at least until the indictment). But the thing to keep in mind is that those losses were not permanent. Like her trading, they were only short term. It took ImClone shares barely two years to climb back to the price at which she had sold it.

And if you look at a chart of ImClone's progress over the past couple of years and compare it to a chart of the market's progress as a whole, it is hard to argue that by selling ImClone and buying another stock, Martha would have made out any better than if she had stood pat.

Moreover, had she let her money ride on ImClone for, say, the three-year minimum that subscribers of Motley Fool Hidden Gems aim for, then by mid-morning on April 27, 2004, she would have seen her investment rise 30% in value -- very nearly tying its March 6, 2000 all-time high of $84.56.

Conclusion: in a contest between market timing and LTBH, market timing gets the lower bunk.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no beneficial interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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Bud Looks East

By Nathan Slaughter

Facing a saturated market at home, Anheuser-Busch(NYSE: BUD) is seeking to tap into more than a billion additional customers in China with its new investment in Chinese brewer Harbin Brewery Group.

The maker of the "King of Beers" paid $139 million for a 29% stake in Harbin, which is China's fourth-largest brewer with roughly a 4.3% market share. Harbin reportedly posted a net profit last year of $14.7 million.

Anheuser-Busch is no stranger to China, as it already controls a 9.9% stake in China's biggest beer company, Tsingtao, and plans to increase that position to 27% over the next several years. But as a smaller player, Harbin may represent a more promising growth opportunity than Tsingtao. For example, Harbin's business is currently concentrated in the northeastern part of China, while Tsingtao already distributes its beer nationwide.

As for beer drinking trends in China, all signs look good. A Dec. 2003 Washington Times article indicates that China ranks second to the U.S. in total beer consumption, and that the Asian giant is rapidly closing the difference. Some analysts estimate China's beer drinking market to grow 5% to 6% annually for the next several years. Make way for the Chinese beer belly.

In the U.S., Anheuser-Busch is locked in intense competition with Coors(NYSE: RKY) and SABMiller, which is partly owned by Altria Group(NYSE: MO). Admittedly, in its most recent quarter, Anheuser-Busch showed an impressive profit gain due in part to successful price hikes. But customers' loyalties may only go so far. Even if a Bud is "beechwood aged" with a recent "born on" date, its drinkers probably would have trouble coughing up microbrew prices, on principle alone.

With this kind of environment, making an end run around the competition by investing in China is a no-brainer. As Seth Jayson has pointed out, though, Anheuser-Busch's balance sheet, particularly its debt level, bears close watching.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman doesn't own shares of any of the mentioned companies.

Qu ote of Note

"Don't stay in bed, unless you can make money in bed." -- George Burns

Churchill Downs' Derby Dollars

By Nathan Slaughter

And down the stretch they come.... Could there be any more exciting words in the mind of a thoroughbred-racing fan, particularly when they refer to the finale of the grandest of all races -- the Kentucky Derby? Each spring the racing world converges on the town of Louisville, Ky., for pageantry, tradition, and of course, the "fastest two minutes in sports."

This year's 130th installment of racing's crown jewel culminated with a memorable stretch run for sentimental favorite Smarty Jones. The undersized Pennsylvania-bred colt stalked the front-running Lion Heart, gamely catching him with a furlong left to run, and pulling away for a 2 ¾ length victory. Those collecting the $10.20 payoff for a $2 win ticket weren't the only ones, though, to profit from Saturday's event.

Churchill Downs (Nasdaq: CHDN) , owner of the venerable Kentucky race course (as well the CDSN simulcast network, and other tracks in California, Florida, and Illinois) has to be pleased with this year's Run for the Roses. A rainy forecast and ongoing construction did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the 140,000 spectators in attendance. Rain may have deterred a few, as the figure was slightly below last year's crowd, but it was the highest ever for a derby run under muddy conditions.

Total wagering on the race missed the $100 million mark by a nose. Eager gamblers placed $99.3 million in bets, eclipsing last year's handle by 13%. Aggregate wagering for all 12 races on the card edged up 2% to $142.8 million. Both figures set new North American records. Betting was especially brisk at simulcast locations (including Churchill Downs Trackside Louisville OTB), and accounted for roughly 90% of all wagering. Casual at-home viewers were also intrigued by the contest, which handicappers considered the most wide-open in years. General Electric's(NYSE: GE) NBC broadcast earned an 8.3 rating, tying it for the most-watched race since 1992.

Record-setting wagers placed Saturday should help alleviate the frustration on another gaming front. Churchill Downs has fought, thus far unsuccessfully, for the right to operate slot machines in both the Louisville track, as well as Arlington Park in Chicago. The integration of a racetrack-based casino -- something Harrah's Entertainment(NYSE: HET) has accomplished at its Louisiana Downs property -- would surely help augment pari-mutuel revenues.

As one might expect, business at Churchill Downs is highly seasonal, with the vast majority of earnings coming from the second quarter. For a company whose year revolves around a single event, Saturday's derby had to be exhilarating on both a financial and an emotional level.

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter actually won a few dollars on Smarty Jones, but doesn't recommend investors abandon their stocks to play the ponies. He owns shares of GE.

Discussion Board of the Day: Google

Will Smarty Jones, the scrappy winner of the Kentucky Derby, also win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes? Talk it over on our Horse Racing discussion board. Only on

Mo re on Today

The Oracle of Omaha proves yet again why investors listen when he speaks in Buffett's Wit and Wisdom.... And, if you don't like the market's looks, buy better stocks. Paul Elliott says it is as simple as that in Beating the Big, Bad Bear.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.