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Published: Wednesday, 5/7/2008

Coal vaults new name to top spot

BLADE STAFF

As oil companies make record profits for themselves, coal companies are making big profits for shareholders.

Two of the leading three participants in The Blade's year-long Stock Market Game hold coal companies in their hypothetical portfolios.

Taking over first place is William O'Connell of Toledo. His portfolio, valued at $50,150 as of the end of last month, has Ford Motor Co., China Direct Inc., Citigroup Inc., and James River Coal Co. James River, up nearly $5 in the past month, boosted the portfolio value by almost $9,900.

The stock sells for $22.23 a share. The firm mines and sells bituminous, steam, and industrial-grade coal.

The rise of coal companies could be the result of high oil prices and the growing use of railroad transportation, said Christina Wegner, a financial adviser with the Toledo office of Smith Barney, which is co-sponsoring the contest and tabulating results.

In second place is Edwin L. Harwood of Monroe. His portfolio, at $49,911, has Hovanian Enterprises Inc., Meritage Homes Corp., Spartan Motors Inc., and Arris Group Inc. It is up 25 percent since the start of the contest.

Hovanian, which runs both a home construction and mortgage-lending enterprise, has increased in value despite recent housing market woes.

In third place is Don Stacy of Gibsonburg Ohio, with a portfolio valued at $48,090. It has Swift Energy Co., First Solar Inc., Oracle Corp., and Fording Canadian Coal Trust. The coal firm, with stock selling at $62 a share, is up 63 percent this year.

"I thought alternative fuels were going to be on the increase in the short term," said Mr. Stacy.

For the contest, participants were required to select two stocks from the New York Stock Exchange and two from the Nasdaq market, each valued at $5 by Dec. 31, 2007. Each stock was allotted $10,000 at the outset. A total of 880 people entered.

The winner is the portfolio with the biggest gains by the end of this year. First prize is $200 in cash and a three-day/two night trip for two, including transportation and hotel, to Chicago, Toronto, or Tampa during 2009. Arrangements will be made by contest co-sponsor Central Travel of Toledo. Second place receives $300 in cash and third place $200.

A dartboard portfolio selected at random by The Blade business reporters has dropped to $38,966 and is ranked 238th, down from a ranking of 38th a month earlier.

Other leaders through April are John Gilbert, Toledo, $48,075; Anthony Thomas, Perrysburg, $47,417; Mary Humpert, Temperance, $47,072; Dick Green, Maumee, $47,032; Harold Hamilton, Northwood, $47,023; Darrell Converse, Perrysburg, $46,754; and Linda Arent, Perrysburg, $46,599.

- Ted Fackler



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