Sometimes in the stock market, it's better to be lucky than smart.
Leonard Giesige, of Hamler, Ohio, knows that now. After eight months of The Blade's Stock Market Game, he sits alone at the top, having almost lapped his nearest competitor.
He is floating in fictional cash with a 62 percent return on his hypothetical $40,000 initial investment. It was worth $64,789 by Sept. 2.
His next closest competitor, Garry Mills, of Waterville, has a 33 percent return.
"It's more luck than sense, I guess," said Mr. Giesige. "I wish the rest of my investments were performing this well."
His success is largely from the phenomenal growth of one stock, Fuel System Solutions Inc.
The Santa Ana, Calif., company makes products that allow internal-combustion engines to operate on fuels like natural gas and propane.
The stock, which trades under the symbol FSYS, has shot up a remarkable 259 percent since the first of the year.
The other stocks in his portfolio - all of which have an alternative-energy component - have had mixed success.
Headwaters Inc., a Utah "clean coal" technology company, is up 26 percent for the year, but Sunpower Corp., of San Jose, Calif., is down 30 percent.
His fourth stock, Kyocera Corp., a Japanese conglomerate with interests in several industries, is off 6 percent.
He built the portfolio from among 30 stocks in a "green energy" fund that he holds.
Christina Wegner, a financial adviser with Smith Barney's Toledo office, a contest co-sponsor, said the volatile stock market has wreaked havoc among the contest's 874 participants.
"Only 93 of them are in positive territory, with the other 781 negative," she said.
Entrants in the contest had to divide their initial imaginary $40,000 equally among two stocks from the New York Stock Exchange and two from Nasdaq, each worth at least $5 a share, by Dec. 31, 2007.
They were allowed to change one stock midyear.
The portfolio with the biggest gain by the end of this year wins. First prize is $200 in cash and a three-day/two night trip for two, including transportation and hotel, to Chicago, Toronto, or Tampa during 2009.
Arrangements will be made by contest co-sponsor Central Travel of Toledo.
Second place receives $300 in cash and third place $200.
Mr. Giesige, 59, a retired Campbell Soup Co. employee, did not change any of his four stocks. "I let them ride," he said.
Mr. Mills, vaulting from seventh to second, has a portfolio of Emergent Biosolutions Inc., Dendreon Corp., Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg., and Universal Display Corp. It has a value of $53,062. Of his four stocks, only Emergent showed a gain for the year, but it was up 175 percent.
The Blade's dartboard picks, chosen at random by four members of the business news staff, have fallen 3 percent to $36,618 and ranked 135th.
The other contest leaders are Diane Stacy, of Gibsonburg, whose portfolio was worth $52,419; Jan Rizzo, Sylvania, $52,274; Jon Dresher, Grand Rapids, Ohio, $52,119; Dan Stacy, Gibsonburg, $51,827; Michael McHaffie, Waterville, $50,947; James Wiederhold, Ottawa Lake, $50,015; Steve Rich, Fremont, $49,708, and Mary Schultz, Blissfield, Mich., $49,556.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: