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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Moderate approach gives pros low ranks

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

They're the experts, but the gains made by their imaginary portfolios wouldn't have been among the top 50 finishers of the Blade's Stock Market Game. Or even the top 100.

The best was Ted Sipes, of Bowling Green, president of the Northwest Buckeye chapter of the National Association of Investors Corp., who managed a 35 percent gain. It would have placed him 117th.

So what happened to the professional challengers, two of whom were bested by a Blade portfolio that gained 29 percent and was chosen by throwing darts at lists of New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq stocks?

Well, rather than play a fast and free strategy, the experts said, they handled their entries as they would advise their clients: conservatively.

"I picked three names we were using for our clients and just one speculative stock," said Mark Evans, of Trust Co. of Toledo, whose picks of an oil company, a dental company, an insurance company, and a biotech firm gained 17 percent. He had Burlington Resources, Dentsply International, Everest Reinsurance Group, and Martek Biosciences.

"We pretended like we're using those stocks for clients with real money," he said. "The S&P ended up 10.9 percent for the year, so I'm pretty happy. To win a contest like this you have to gamble, but we're conservative."

Sarah Berndt, a vice president in the Toledo office of Fifth Third Bank's Investment Advisors division, chose a similar approach. Her portfolio gained just over 10 percent. "That's nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

Her entry had EMC Corp., L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., and Amgen Inc. "The one thing I regret is I should have chosen an oil stock or oil services company," she said.

Mr. Sipes, who doesn't have clients, could afford to gamble more, and he did. He chose Home Depot because he works there, but said otherwise he went for potential growth stocks like Sprint PCS, which gained 121 percent, instead of his usual diet of steady gainers. He also had Atmel Corp. and Illumina Inc.

"I was looking for growth stocks, but normally I'm kind of a buy-and-hold investor," Mr. Sipes said.

"To be honest, I was concerned I was going to get beat by the dartboard. If you could get beat by a dartboard, you might as well as go buy some darts."

The dartboard entry was Masisa SA, Questar Corp., Independent Bancorp, and Cass Information Systems Inc.



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