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Last fall aspiring financiers from across the U.S. logged on to a simulated trading desk for a chance to win Institutional Investor’s third annual All-America Student Analyst Competition. Flush with $100,000 in virtual cash, more than 2,000 students from 74 colleges and universities rode the waves of low interest rates, the Ebola scare and tanking oil prices as they battled to beat the Russell 3000 Index.

Taking top honors this year is Matthew Feldman, a senior at Baruch College in New York. Feldman participated in the competition as part of professor Bruce Kamich’s technical analysis class, where he learned different buy and sell signals. A die-hard value investor, the 23-year-old Honolulu native dumped more than half his capital into Southwest Airlines Co., enticed by an attractive price-earnings ratio, strong earnings and the expectation that low oil prices would ratchet up net profits.

“Stocks like Amazon that have a superhigh P/E ratio, I stay away from,” he explains. “I’d rather invest in stocks that have high value and a lot of potential.” Long familiar with his top choice, Feldman has held the Dallas-based air carrier in his personal portfolio since 2010.

All-America Student Analyst Competition

Apart from Southwest Airlines, Feldman put together a diversified book with holdings in the energy, financial, health care and retail sectors, domestic and abroad. His second-largest position was a 27 percent allocation to Main Street Capital Corp., a Houston-based private equity firm catering to lower-middle-market businesses. Feldman wanted his second-largest position to be a good income stock and picked Main Street for its stable price history and high dividend yield, he reports.

Using the Alphaseal software platform, developed by Stamford, Connecticut–based research services provider Mark My Media, these mock-portfolio managers could buy and sell stocks and index funds, use leverage and take short positions from September 2, 2014, through January 30, 2015. (Not all students placed their first trades on the same day.) To better simulate a trader’s responsibilities, the competition required participants to maintain a trade journal explaining their stock picks and also to comply with Regulation T, the Federal Reserve Board rule enforcing a 50 percent margin constraint on initial stock purchases. Violation of the rule taught students the perils of ignoring financial regulations as some were disqualified from the overall ranking.