The Stock Market Game is a curriculum-based teaching tool that allows students to invest a hypothetical $100,000 online stock portfolio to learn about long-term saving and investing.

While the government confirmed on Thursday that the U.S. economy suffered its largest drop in 26 years during the fourth quarter, the markets provided somewhat of a silver lining earlier this week, posting 20% gains in under three weeks. Unfortunately, the gains were short-lived as the markets retreated on Friday.

As Stock Market Game students select their portfolio investments, they may be interested in taking a look at the most recent issue of BusinessWeek's top 50 stock picks of the S&P 500. It analyzed two core financial measures, average return on capital and growth, both taken over the previous 36 months. It also factored in net profit margins and long-term earning prospects. Unlike in years past, many of the companies occupying the top spots are not well-known. They also span various industries and sectors that your students may want to research further.

The top five include:

  1. Gilead Sciences (GILD) (Industry: Pharmaceuticals): The top spot goes to a biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, and manufactures therapies for viral diseases, infectious diseases and cancer.
  2. CF Industries Holdings (CF) (Industry: Fertilizers): This company is one of North America's largest manufacturers and distributors of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products used primarily by farmers.
  3. Diamond Offshore (DO) (Industry: Energy Equipment & Services): Diamond is a leading U.S. deepwater drilling contractor providing services to the energy industry worldwide. In 1992, Loews (L) bought the company's assets for $372 million and still controls 50% of Diamond.
  4. Windstream (WIN) (Industry: Telecommunications): Based in Little Rock, Ark., the company provides phone, digital TV and broadband service to rural customers in 16 states.
  5. Colgate-Palmolive (CL) (Industry: Consumer Staples): Fortunately, the current state of the economy is not impacting consumers' need to brush their teeth. The company is the leader in oral care products and plans to unveil the Wisp, a disposable mini toothbrush with built-in breath fresheners, on April 6.

Especially if any of these companies are unfamiliar to your students, they might be interested in researching them further as they begin their InvestWrite essays (as a reminder, essays are due next Friday, April 3). Go to the InvestWrite Web site and also be sure to check out the How to InvestWrite lesson located in the " Teacher Support Center". The lesson provides an overview of the competition and helps students get organized to write their essays. The lesson is accessible by clicking "Lesson Sequence" and then selecting "Display a Complete Outline of All Lessons."

Learn more about the Stock Market Game here.
This article was written by a staff member of The Stock Market Game.

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