Monday, May 28, 2018
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Portfolio that tripled puts winner far out in front of stock contest

KATHLEEN Ansted describes herself as a stock-market hobbyist.

But her performance in The Blade Stock Market Game will be the envy of many professional stock pickers.

Her hypothetical portfolio rose more than threefold to propel her to victory in the yearlong contest that drew 700 entrants.

“I'm thrilled,” said Mrs. Ansted, finance director for an auto dealership in Maumee. “But I was pretty confident going into December.”

By the end of the contest on Dec. 31, the stocks chosen by the woman from the Toledo suburb of Springfield Township had risen from $40,000 to $147,452.

Her gains were $30,722 more than those of second-place finisher, Aaron Howell, of Tiffin. His portfolio finished at $116,730.

Each entrant chose four stocks by Dec. 31, 2008 — two from Nasdaq and two from the New York Stock Exchange.

Rules required that, at the outset, each stock sell for at least $3 a share. The winner was the portfolio with the biggest gain at the end of 2009.

The winner receives $200 and a trip to Chicago, Toronto, or Tampa, courtesy of contest co-sponsor Central Travel of Toledo.

The second-place finisher receives $300 in cash, and third place gets $200.

Mrs. Ansted hasn't decided where she will go on her trip, but she is leaning toward Tampa. “Due to the weather,” she explained. “But it's a little cold down there right now,” she added with a chuckle.

The contest ended much better than in 2008, when just five entrants had profitable portfolios following a year in which the Dow Jones industrial average lost $1.2 trillion, or 34 percent of its value.

In 2009, many entrants did well, noted Andy Weiner, a financial adviser at the Sylvania Township office of Smith Barney, contest co-sponsor and tabulator of results. Eighty percent of portfolios were profitable.

The top 50 contestants each doubled the value of their holdings. “That's an outstanding performance,” Mr. Weiner said.

“I'd like returns like that in my own portfolio,” he quipped.

Those results bested the nation's three main stock market indices; the Dow Jones gained 19 percent in 2009, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 24 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 44 percent.

The winning portfolio was made up of Russian mining and steel company Mechel OAO ADS, Canadian mining firm Teck Resources Ltd., and solar firms Solarfun Power Holdings and Ascent Solar Technologies.

Teck, of Vancouver, B.C., soared more than sixfold to $34.97 at the end of the contest from $4.92 Jan. 1, 2009.

The other mining company turned in a similarly spectacular performance, jumping to $18.82 from $4.

Mrs. Ansted, 53, has been buying stocks since acquiring shares in a bank for which she worked when she was in her early 20s.

She continued to dabble in the market, occasionally landing some fantastic deals such as shares purchased in an initial public offering for a credit-card issuer that she sold at a big profit.

“I enjoy the stock market as a hobby,” she explained.

She acknowledged, however, that she took more risk in the contest than she does in real life. “I'm pretty careful when it comes to our own money,” she added.

The spread between the first-place and second-place portfolios was the largest between any two contestants in the game, Mr. Weiner, the financial adviser, observed.

Part of Mrs. Ansted's success, he added, was picking firms with exposure to emerging markets in Russia and the Asia-Pacific region. Such stocks tended to do well last year.

The second-place portfolio consisted of Apple Inc., Parker-Hannifin Corp., Inc., and U-Store-It Trust.

All put in solid performances, with Apple and Priceline more than doubling during 2009, but the gains weren't enough to overcome increases by the winner's leaders.

Mr. Weiner said the stock-market gains overall helped contestants, but a comparatively small number of stocks posted gains of at least 100 percent as some stocks in the top portfolios did. “That doesn't usually happen,” he said.

Finishing in third place, with $115,712, was Susan Darmofal of Toledo. She had led at various points in the contest. She picked Dendreon Corp., Thompson Creek Metals Co., Tivo Inc., and Yamana Gold Inc.-CAD.

Just behind her, in fourth, was sister-in-law Eleanore Darmofal, who finished with $115,027.

The Blade's Business News desk's portfolio, selected at random, finished in 487th place with $47,236. It was made up of Columbia Sportswear Co., land owner Mesabi Trust, cellular phone manufacturer Nokia Corp., and wireless communications company ViaSat Inc.

— Gary T. Pakulski

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