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Published: Friday, 1/13/2006

Blade stock contest in full swing

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

High-flying stocks last year are what many participants in The Blade s Stock Market Game are banking on to help them win this year.

Among them is Toledoan Lester Miller, whose contest portfolio includes Google Inc., the Internet search engine that gained 115 percent last year and started this year at more than $410 a share, and Apple Computer Inc., which was up 123 percent last year.

They have been competitive, and they have done some unique things, said the 74-year-old retired laboratory technician. Still, to hedge his bet, he chose two other well-known, if less exciting, stocks: oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. and railroad company CSX Corp.

The contest began Jan. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. More than 1,210 people entered, submitting their forms by the end of last year.

Participants had to select two New York Stock Exchange stocks and two Nasdaq stocks, each trading above $5 a share at the outset. Each stock choice was allotted a hypothetical $10,000 at the outset.

The contestant whose portfolio increases the most this year wins $100 in cash and two round-trip airline tickets to anywhere in the continental United States during 2007, a trip provided by Central Travel of Toledo, a contest co-sponsor. Second prize is $300 in cash, and the third-place winner will get $200.

Tabulating the entries and tracking the stock prices is the Toledo office of Smith Barney, a contest co-sponsor.

We have two distinct groups of entrants, those chasing last year s winners and people who loaded up on a particular sector, said David Sattler, a financial consultant with Smith Barney.

Some entries seemed to have been influenced by popular TV stock commentators, he said. Many chose gold, oil, and tech stocks, he added. More than 11 percent of the entrants chose Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. on Nasdaq, and about 6 percent picked Pfizer Inc. on NYSE. In all, 1,500 different stocks were chosen.

Participants who selected beaten-down automotive stocks such as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Toledo s Dana Corp. must be counting on a rebound, Mr. Wagner said.

People who selected The Andersons Inc., a Maumee agribusiness, probably did so because the firm has done very well lately, he added. Its shares rose nearly 70 percent last year.

Still, some entrants are banking on lesser-known stocks.

Diane Jacobson, 60, of Findlay, chose an eclectic portfolio consisting of Gamestop Corp., a video and entertainment-software firm; Tetra Technologies Inc., an oil and gas service company; Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc., a provider of physicians software, and Encore Wire Corp., a maker of copper wire and cable.

I don t own any of those stocks, but I wish I did, she said. I checked the other day, and they re doing well. She said at least some of the picks were recommended by TV stock guru Jim Cramer.

She knows, however, the market can be volatile.

My chances of winning are probably nil, she said. But I ve got nothing to lose except the postage.

Contact Homer Brickey athomerbrickey@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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