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Published: Friday, 1/13/2006

Challenge portfolios vie with readers picks

FOUR CHALLENGE portfolios will vie with Blade readers for the best stock picks in this year s contest.

Three of the challengers, who cannot win the prizes available to readers, are LaMont Stewart, a broker with Edward Jones who manages the Maumee office; Donna Bardis, a former University of Toledo mathematics instructor and longtime participant in investment clubs; and Dorothy Sutter, a Sylvania resident who won The Blade stock contest for 2004 with a portfolio of four steel-industry stocks that gained 161 percent.

The last challenger is The Blade business news staff, which picked four stocks at random for a dartboard portfolio. As with the readers, each challenger had to select two New York Stock Exchange stocks and two Nasdaq stocks before the end of last year. Each stock was allotted a hypothetical $10,000 to start with.

Mr. Stewart, a former tabulator of the newspaper contest when he was with Smith Barney, chose Sysco Corp. and Vodafone Group PLC on NYSE and Costo Wholesale Corp. and Microsoft Corp. on Nasdaq.

Sysco is the largest food-service distributor in the nation; shares of Vodafone, a part owner of Verizon Wireless, trade at a discount; and software giant Microsoft has entered a new product cycle, he explained.

As for Costco, what s not to like about a company that charges a fee to its customers to buy its products? Besides, Costco has double-digit earnings growth.

Mrs. Bardis was a bit leery of picking stocks for one-year growth because she is used to focusing on long-term selections. She is a founder and first president of the University Women s Club investment group (now known as UWC) and has been a director of the Northwest Buckeye Chapter of the National Association of Investors Corp.

She went with L-3 Communications and Lowe s Cos. on NYSE and eBay Inc. and Educate Inc. on Nasdaq.

Of her picks, she said, she likes L-3 s government contracts and its growing earnings and dividend, thinks Lowe s business should grow because of rebuilding after Katrina, believes eBay s earnings will continue strong, and that Educate will be gaining business from parents eager to give their children educational advantages through their Sylvan Learning Centers and Hooked on Phonics programs.

As for Mrs. Sutter, this time she picked Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. and Glamis Gold Ltd., both gold-exploration and mining firms, on NYSE and medical-equipment suppliers Palomar Medical Technologies Inc. and Syneron Medical Ltd. on Nasdaq.

There s a lot of demand for gold, especially in China and India, she explained. And when there s inflation, gold does well.

She likes the equipment firms because people are really into hair-removal, wrinkle removal, acne treatment, etc., right now, so I thought I d give that a try.

Selected entirely blindly, The Blade s dartboard picks were a mixed group: Triarc Cos. Inc. (Class A), franchisor of Arby s restaurants, and Brasil Telecom Participacoes SA, a Brazilian telephone company, on NYSE and American Superconductor Corp. and Hittite Microwave Corp., which develops circuits for wireless communications, on Nasdaq.

HOMER BRICKEY



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