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EVEN MARKET'S WILD GYRATIONS ARE NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP ONE DAILY NEWS STOCK PICKER ... ...FROM COMING OUT ON TOP AND MORE THAN DOUBLING HIS MONEY.

Byline: Evan Pondel Staff Writer

Since the ninth Daily News Stock Picking contest began four months ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has shed more than 1,600 points - a whopping 15.7 percent. Yet all but one of the contestants' portfolios finished in the black.

Indeed, risking $100,000 of nonexistent cash in a contest is considerably less stressful than playing with a future retirement fund. But cultivating a portfolio that grows 100 percent in a downtrodden economy is no simple feat even for the most seasoned tycoon.

``You've got to have patience - and get in on an IPO, of course,'' said Michael De Coux, whose portfolio doubled its value to finish at $200,838. De Coux managed to maintain his first place trot for almost the entire contest.

Keeping his portfolio aloft: Jet Blue Airlines. So far, the Kew Gardens, N.Y.-based company has been the year's top-gaining IPO, posting a 67 percent rise in its April debut.

``Take that IPO away from a portfolio and perhaps things wouldn't seem so rosy,'' said Rosemary Dinardo, a stock broker with L P L Financial Services in North Hollywood. ``Not everyone has access to an IPO these days. The likelihood of an average investor actually being able get in on Jet Blue is very slim.''

Even so, other contestants had the same opportunity to invest in Jet Blue. ``I heard about Jet Blue's story before their initial public offering and I guess the stock ended up being the meat and potatoes for my portfolio,'' De Coux said.

Not everyone was as fortuitous as De Coux, though. Jayesh Patel buried his portfolio at the beginning of the contest. He battled last place for a couple of months and then decided to alter his strategy.

``I started asking myself, what am I going to do?'' he said.

It wasn't Patel's affinity for risky trades that influenced his portfolio's demise. It was the lack of pep in his stock picks.

``Oh, but it's real hard to make money in this market,'' said Patel, who sent his trades via email from India in recent weeks. ``Sentiment in the market has been bad. And I was hoping that things would improve for the better.''

Despite discouraging conditions in the marketplace, Patel's portfolio finally did improve in the last leg of the contest. Among the companies that bolstered his withering investments - Astrom Biosciences and Verisign Inc.

Both companies managed to dig Patel out of the hole, rendering his portfolio cash flow positive. Though he placed third, his tremendous fight to the finish paid off, amassing $24,853 in profits by the contest's end.

Finishing just in front of Patel was Robert Henri, who said he never felt queasy from the market's undulations. ``I got by just fine,'' he said.

Henri's ability to prevail lies in his patience. Instead of trading a dozen stocks every week, Henri exercised prudence.

``I just sat there and waited. I'm not a day trader. I like taking my time and that worked out just fine for me,'' he said.

His favorite catches: General Dynamics Corp., the Coca-Cola Co., MGM Grand Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp. ``Most of these companies have done well for my portfolio,'' he said.

And Henri's portfolio reflects his confidence, ending up $36,774.

Kaye Krassner wasn't nearly as optimistic as Henri. Her attention was diverted from the contest after making final preparations for graduation from California State University, Northridge. But even with her diploma and a job with a finance company, Krassner said her portfolio didn't receive the attention it needed - drooping to $82,528.75. Much of Krassner's portfolio was invested in The Bisys Group Inc. The New York-based company provides outsourcing services to more than 15,000 financial institutions and corporations. Krassner, who doesn't have a lot of experience investing in the market, was attracted to companies like Bisys because they had long-standing stability.

``Since I've been working full time now, I have totally ignored the stock market because I'm too tired after work to even turn my computer on,'' she said. ``I don't even know what the standings are at this point and don't really have time to investigate anything either.''

``Besides, the stock market has been way too volatile to even make a guestimate,'' she said.

Chris Vaughn agreed with Krassner, saying the market's lack of stability was certainly a deterrent. To cope with the market's shifty behavior, Vaughn preferred investing in companies that were ``useful and easy to understand.''

``An investor shouldn't invest in a company if they don't know a thing about what they actually do, you know,'' Vaughn said. The actor attempted to keep his portfolio afloat through investments in The Cheesecake Factory Inc., Copart Inc. and Biomet Inc. ``But the market has been very difficult to work with,'' he said.

In the end, Vaughn was able to draw some success, exiting the contest with a portfolio valued at $106,488.50.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) If anybody knows the value of a dollar, it's Michael De Coux, who doubled his money in the Daily News stock picking contest.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 5, 2002
Words:854
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