More accustomed to cuddling and snuggling than she is to the cold, cruel world of business, Sam the red and pink stuffed dog was ready to sniff out bargains on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
A little girl and her toy dog are knocking the stuffing out of a pack of pros at the half-way mark of Report on Business's ninth annual stock-picking contest.
Emilia Loewen, 5, daughter of Report on Business deputy editor Cathryn Motherwell, and her stuffed dog Sam are the wild-card entry in a group of professional market experts in this year's My One and Only stock-picking contest. The entrants, who are vying for a Globe and Mail coffee mug, must pick a stock trading at $1 or more on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and hold it for the year.
The leader of the pack has the opportunity to lock in gains at the end of a quarter, but Emilia has chosen to continue. "Stay in," she emphatically instructed.
Shell Canada, whose stock split three-for-one in May, has ridden record oil prices to $32.89, gaining 24.12 percent on a total-return (dividends reinvested) basis in the first half.
Emilia's blue-chip stock has beaten the professionals, most of whom have decided to swing for the fences with what they hope will be growth stocks.
Emilia has a solid lead over the first-quarter leader, Al Budai, publisher of the Buy Low, Sell High investment newsletter, whose pick, Xceed Mortgage Corp., has dropped to second place with 14.04-percent gain at $5.20. The Toronto-based niche mortgage firm provides financing to borrowers the banks won't touch.
Shell Canada and Xceed are the only two stocks to have bested the S&P/TSX composite's total return of 8.1 percent for the six-month period. In fact, the rest of the pack have lost money during the period.
Cygnal Technologies, the choice of Benj Gallander and Ben Stadelmann, co-editors of the Toronto-based Contra the Heard tip sheet and contributors to GlobeinvestorGOLD.com, has climbed from the rear of the pack but is still down 4 percent at $1.44. Cygnal, which provides technical services to the broadband communications industry, had a good run during the tech boom in 2000, but has been in the doldrums since.
Marco den Ouden's entry, Sherritt International closed the half-year down 5.83 percent at $9.31. The mining and energy company's Cuba holdings add some risk, but Mr. den Ouden, who publishes investment advisory The Break Out Report out of Vancouver, believes the company's coal holdings could boost the stock.
Robert Callander, vice president and portfolio manager at Toronto-based Caldwell Securities, picked CGI Group, which finished the half at $7.36, down 8 percent. The specialist in outsourcing information technology and business processing also climbed during the tech boom, but has languished of late.
Michael Smedley's pick, Centurion Energy International, is down 8.78 percent in the first half to $13.41. Mr. Smedley, president of closed-end fund Canadian General Investments, is hoping for a second great year from the oil and gas firm, which soared more than sixfold last year, making it the TSX's top stock for 2004.
Calgary-based West Energy Ltd. is the pick of Veronika Hirsch, chief investment officer of hedge fund marketer BluMont Capital and winner of our 2001 contest. The oil-services company finished the first half at $4.75, down 16.96 percent.
Robert McWhirter, portfolio manager of Northwest Specialty Innovations Fund, picked Calian Technologies. The company, which sells technology services to industry and government, ended the half down 17.23 percent at $12.25.
Bringing up the rear, something of a tradition among our house players, is Michael Vaughan of Report on Business Television, who chose Ondine Biopharma. The Vancouver-based biotech company is down 47.69 percent at $1.70.