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Published: Friday, 9/4/2009

Druggist surges in contest


A Monroe pharmacist has surged to third place in The Blade's Stock Market Game and now is within $8,000 of the lead.

“I've never had this much success at picking stocks,” said Jim Spotts of Petersburg, Mich., whose fantasy portfolio rose by $17,570 to $97,734 on Aug. 31 and bolted him into the No. 3 spot from 10th place a month earlier.

The leadership of the contest flip-flopped again last month as Susan Darmofal of Toledo reclaimed first place with a portfolio of $105,467.

Kathy Ansted, a Holland resident who had been first in July, slipped back to second, with a value of $104,634.

Both women lost ground in August, as Ms. Darmofal's portfolio fell from $119,794 and Ms. Ansted's from $121,932.

But the big story last month was Mr. Spotts, a 50-year-old part-time farmer, who acknowledges that he has been way back in the pack at points in the contest that runs through Dec. 31.

“If I'm only $8,000 behind, I've got a good chance,” he said. His strategy was to pick badly beaten down stocks.

His biggest gainer was XL Capital Ltd., an insurer. Mr. Spotts' mock $10,000 investment in the firm soared to $46,892 as of Aug. 31. Other winning positions included Las Vegas Sands Corp., which has more than doubled since Jan. 1 to $24,047 and pharmaceutical developer Incyte Corp., up from $10,000 to $17,388.

The only laggard was Fuelcell Energy Inc., which has lost $600 since the start of 2009.

Nearly 700 people entered the contest, which started at the beginning of the year. Contestants had to select two New York Stock Exchange and two Nasdaq stocks, worth at least $3 a share. An imaginary $40,000 was divided evenly among the four picks.

The big unknown in the contest, as in the real-world of stock-picking, is whether shares of publicly traded companies will hold on to gains of recent months or begin to slip or “correct” as some on Wall Street fear, said financial adviser Andrew Weiner, of Smith Barney's Toledo office.

The brokerage is co-sponsor of the contest and tabulator of results.

“Everyone did pretty well in August, but we started to see a correction at the end of the month,” he said.

The first-place contestant holds Dandreon Corp., Thompson Creek Metals Co., Tivo Inc., and Yamana Gold Inc.

The contest winner will be the portfolio with the biggest gains as of Dec. 31.

First prize is $200 in cash and a three-day/two-night trip for two people to Chicago, Toronto, or Tampa. The trip is covered by the contest co-sponsor, Central Travel of Toledo. The second-place prize is $300; third place is $200.

In contest standings, The Blade's Business News department's dart board portfolio is in 552nd place at $40,653, up a mere $653.

Other contest leaders and their portfolio values are Aaron Howell, Tiffin, $95,999; Eleanore Darmofal, Toledo, $87,408; Ken Weislak, Perrysburg, $83,837; Marlene Farkas, Toledo, $83,728; Ivan Finney, Sylvania, $79,008; Charles Hoecherl, Monclova Township, $78,991, and John Shavalier, St. Clair Shores, Mich., $77,174.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:gpakulski@theblade.comor 419-724-6082.

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