Lots of investors wished their stock portfolios were only make-believe last month.
But even entrants in The Blade's Stock Market Game, who started with a hypothetical $40,000, were slightly unnerved by the weak performance of stocks in July.
"What a difference a month makes," commented Steven Wagner, a financial consultant with Smith Barney, which is co-sponsor of the contest.
"In June, we had 563 people who had positive portfolios. That was half the contest. This month, only 345 were in positive territory. We went from a half to a third."
Doris Steinberg, a 61-year-old Toledo resident, continued to lead the contest. But the value of her portfolio slipped $13,501 to $85,068. It is up 113 percent since January.
She heads a list of 1,021 entrants who are vying for prizes, including the top prize of airline tickets for two to any city in the continental United States, arranged by Atlas World Travel, a contest co-sponsor. The holder of the portfolio in second place by year's end will get $300 cash, and third place will win
Mrs. Steinberg said she spends more time worrying about real-life investments. Still, she looks back longingly on an earlier period in the contest.
"At one point I had $120,000," she said. "I wish I had really owned it. I would have sold it."
With one of her best picks, Novatel Wireless Inc. giving back a chunk of its huge 2004 gains, Mrs. Steinberg began to wonder if she might be in danger of losing the first-place spot she has held for six months.
But there was nothing to fear. Her portfolio was $17,000 ahead of the next closest entrant.
Moving into the second spot from sixth place in June was Michael Obreiter, of Toledo.
The biggest star of his $68,000 portfolio - and that of several other gainers - was a manufacturer of hand-held communications devices, Palm-
One Inc., of Milpitas, Calif.
The stock closed at $40.20 July 30, up 16 percent in July and 242 percent for the year
Dorothy Sutter, of Sylvania, who wasn't even in the top 50 in June, moved into 10th place, at $57,181, on the strength of steel stocks: Dutch-based Ispat International NV, which is up 98 percent for the year; Steel Dynamics Inc., up 42 percent; and AK Steel Holding Corp., up 30 percent.
Best among four challenge portfolios, which are not eligible for prizes, is The Blade's random "dartboard portfolio," which is up 11 percent at $44,262.
Next best was Ted Sipes, president of the Northwest Buckeye chapter of the National Association of Investors Corp. - an investment-club umbrella - whose portfolio is up 1.4 percent at $40,547.
Among the regular contestants, others in the top 10 are Nancy Deye, of Holland, $64,514; Kenneth Wiley, Findlay, $64,273: the late Terry Turner, Toledo, $61,974; Jim O'Bryant, Perrysburg, $60,498; Jon Dvorak, Toledo, $60,450: Bill Waters, Maumee, $57,212; and Richard Carr, Maumee, $57,212.
Contact Gary Pakulski at: