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Nicolet team takes stock in its achievements

High school students stand out in simulated market competition

Jan. 11, 2007

NICOLET - Stock brokers all over the area could weep when they look at five Nicolet High School students.

These neophytes to the heady and often rocky world of the stock market pulled down a 32 percent gain in just 10 weeks on their stocks. Viewed over an entire year, that translates into a nearly 165 percent gain.

That astonishing performance put the Nicolet five in first place against 221 other teams in the Stock Market Simulation for Southeastern Wisconsin. It is the first time in at least 15 years that a Nicolet team has won the competition.

The stock market warriors are Cyrus Karshenas, Danny Henken, Colin Close and Ryan Wnuk, all sophomores, and Ryan Sheehy, a freshman.

They started with $100,000 to invest in the simulation. They made $32,000 over the 10-week competition. Besides putting them first in the region, that gain put them 10th in the state out of 2,700 teams.

Coming in 10th out of 2,700 teams was astonishing, said their teacher Susan Littig.

"I almost died. I couldn't believe it," she said, even though she did not entirely approve of their investing strategy.

"They took a lot of risk and used some unconventional methods in investing," said Littig, who was nevertheless proud of their success.

The boys themselves acknowledge that they were gunning for risky investments that would pay off big.

"Anytime you are looking to make a large sum of money in 10 weeks, you need to buy into risky stocks," said Ryan Sheehy.

But they used the analytical strategies Littig taught them to pick nine stocks, all of which made a profit.

"We thought we had a good run," Cyrus said.

The team "invested" in a research biotech company, an oil company, a resort company that operates a casino/resort in Las Vegas and others.

The casino/resort, one of the most volatile stocks, contributed most toward the success of the team's portfolio. Of the $32,000 in profit, the resort chipped in $5,000. But a steel company contributed a solid $4,000.

Nicolet had 15 investing teams this year in the consumer economics class. The stock market simulation is only part of the basic business survey course.

The boys saluted Littig for her coaching.

"Our teacher helped us read stocks and read the market," Ryan Sheehy said.

The team chose their winning stocks by looking at companies' performance over time, their profiles and basic market trends and estimates of demand, Colin said.

Asked if the team shot down stocks that jumped up one day and fell back the next, Colin said, "We leaned more toward those," adding that the downturns had to be fairly small

Despite their unconventional style, the boys had faith in their research.

"They never traded. That's how confident they were," Littig said.

Their confidence wavered at one point over a couple of stocks that had lost ground and then remained flat.

"We did think of selling, but it didn't go through because we had confidence in our selection," Ryan Wnuk said. "We thought they would come through."

And the boys were right. Both stocks picked themselves up and contributed to the bottom line. The companies were in oil and health care.

Generally speaking, the team's stocks rode the stock market like a wave, rising with the market and falling with it. The competition hit the market in fall and early winter, when it was in a fairly stable period.

The team's investments generally made small, steady gains but had a few days of reasonably small loses, Cyrus said. However, then there was the sinking-feeling-in-your-stomach day when their investments took a nosedive and lost thousands, he said. Still, they hung in there and things picked up.

The students gathered their portfolio from various sources. One was from research using online sources such as Yahoo investment news, plus watching an investing show called "Mad Money with Kramer," CNN clips and using other resources.

The simulation was sponsored by Robert W. Baird & Co., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Midwest Airlines, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the Investor Protection Trust.

The winning team statewide came from Menasha High School, where the team grew its $100,000 to $145,443.

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