Belfast Telegraph

Schools take stock over festive period as it's still all to play for

By Brian Craig

Although the schools (and some local brokers) have been enjoying an extended break over the festive period, the stock market has remained very much open for business and finished the year on a positive note, rallying strongly in the final weeks of 2012.

The early 2013 pacesetter in this year's competition remains St Mary's High School, Downpatrick, who lead the chasing pack by £2,000. Bangor Academy stay in second place with Kilkeel High School entering the top three, a further £2,000 behind.

Outside the leaders however, it remains pretty tight with less than £9,000 separating the next 25 teams so schools near the foot of the table need not be overly concerned with their standing at present as things can change very quickly. A week, they say, is a long time in politics. The same can be said about the stockmarket and portfolio values can be prone to substantial gains (or losses) over a remarkably short period of time.

The FTSE 350 index has increased by 3.53% in value since the start of the competition. Eighteen schools have managed to outperform this benchmark whilst 28 can see their portfolios in pound positive territory - no mean achievement in these volatile market conditions.

Interestingly, only three schools decided to take advantage of the opportunity to make changes to their portfolios at the end of December, obviously the majority being content to retain their selections previously made. They will have a final opportunity at the end of January to take profits,cut losses or invest surplus cash currently held.

This year 36 school teams have entered the competition. The top three will win gift vouchers as prizes when the total value of their portfolios are calculated at the competition's end in mid February.

Brian Craig is Senior Investment director at Investec Wealth and Investment Ltd