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December 05. 2012 10:32PM

Students playing the market


From left, Chase Martell and Brendon Jalbert of Fidelity Investments speak with students on Wednesday at Mastricola Upper Elementary School in Merrimack as part of the Union Leader's Smart Market program. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader)
MERRIMACK -- Handing over $100,0000 to a group of sixth-graders might seem a bit risky, but for those youngsters holding the cash, it has been a valuable lesson in economics and luck.

Students at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School, along with 20 other schools throughout the state, have been trying to make their imaginary cash pool grow with simulated investments.

The project, which enables students to buy imaginary stocks and monitor their investments throughout a 10-week period before cashing in on their returns, is part of the Smart Market program presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

"Stocks can be tricky," said Ryan Carey, a sixth-grader at the local school.

Carey researched stocks and picked Nike as a team choice, which had been going up initially but is now on the decline.

It is never too early to start learning about the stock market and making wise investments, said teacher Dennis Pymm, who uses The Gateway enrichment program. His students, he said, were eager to participate in the Smart Market competition to see which schools in New Hampshire can create the biggest profit.

On Wednesday, representatives from Fidelity Investments in Merrimack visited the school to discuss how recent events may have hit certain stocks.

Several stocks plummeted after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast recently, while others are doing well because of the Christmas season, said Brendon Jalbert, a manager at Fidelity Investments.

"Big global events like hurricanes can significantly impact the market," Jalbert told the students.

During the month of December, when people are buying gifts and toys for Christmas, stocks like Mattel can generate strong profits, said Chase Martell, another Fidelity Investments manager. Some of the stocks that were popular among the sixth-grade class included Coke, Home Depot, Exxon Mobil, Generac, MasterCard and Amazon. In the real world, stocks that are busy now include Apple, Google, Walmart and McDonalds, Martell said.

Another student, Alli O'Hara, said she was having fun researching the different companies, explaining she chose to invest in Johnson & Johnson.

"I made about $400 in the beginning, but I have lost some of my returns since then," said O'Hara. "I think there is definitely some luck involved."

Each week, students received a print copy of the New Hampshire Union Leader to review current events and monitor the stock market, according to Shannon Sullivan, community relations manager for the newspaper.

The Smart Market program is part of the paper's Newspapers in Education Initiative; about 50 teams from an estimated 20 schools are participating.

Winners from the program will be be notified on Dec. 21 and are invited to tour Fidelity Investments and celebrate with an awards ceremony and pizza party on Jan. 15.

"Financial education and financial literacy, which are really two different things, are important to teach and pass on to the next generation and our customers," said Joe Murray, senior director of public affairs for Fidelity Investments. "Saving for the long haul is always a goal that we try to pass on."

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Kimberly Houghton may be reached at khoughton@newstote.com.

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