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Published: Saturday, 1/20/2007

Contest shows value of diversification, brokerage team says

"Most of the hard work was done over the past two weeks," said Shane Ewbank, a Smith Barney financial adviser who heads a team of five keeping track of readers' stock portfolios

The team spent about 60 man-hours entering data - ticker symbols and starting prices - from the paper contest forms into a computer tracking system, he said.

Once the portfolios are all entered, the work mostly involves monitoring mergers, acquisitions, stock splits, spinoffs, and other events that could affect stocks' values, he added.

Mr. Ewbank was on the Smith Barney team that tabulated 1,200 entries in last year's Stock Market Game, and one of his associates, David Himich, a second vice president, worked on the 2006 contest and one held in 2004.

Helping them are financial advisers Tony Willis and Keena Amstutz, along with Christina Wegner, a financial adviser associate.

The contest, Mr. Ewbank said, is educational and proves that "it's tough to find that one stock that will take off. It's important to have a diversified portfolio. Ultimately, you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket."

Two-thirds of last year's entrants finished in the black, but a third of the portfolios lost value, even in a year that brought double-digit gains in such indexes as the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500.

Still, there were many good stock pickers, and about 37 percent of the portfolios beat the S&P's 13.6 percent gain last year.

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