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This week Zacks is proud to introduce Richard Marzouka (aka: remarzouka), a young medical student and market enthusiast who has achieved an overall return of 295% since Jan 3.

After noticing that other contestants were successful with options, this Zacks Challenge contender came from behind and landed into second placed by incorporating option trades into his investment strategy. Some of Richard’s recent option moves include plays on Celgene Corp. (CELG), Goldcorp (GG), Joy Global Inc. (JOYG), Apple Computer, Inc. (AAPL), and Phelps Dodge Corp. (PD). Click here to check out some of this player’s recent trades.

Investing early in life, at the age of 16, Richard was pretty much on his own with no real market knowledge or experience. His lessons came from experiencing both bull and bear markets as well as watching successful traders and checking out different websites.

Today the Simulator player keeps his eye on Carl Icahn’s portfolio for short-term gains and for research often uses Zacks or The Motley Fool. On the subject of identifying opportunities, Richard opined, “you don't have to reinvent the wheel to find good companies. Sometimes it’s easier to research recommendations from a site, than to start on your own screen when most people don't know exactly what to look for."

The stock picker looks for companies with an established record that have the potential to maintain excellent performance. “I like momentum stocks, and companies that have consistent growth and earnings. I look for companies that will grow at least 30% a year if not more,” said Richard.

So what are some favorite holdings?

In the oil services space, Richard likes Lufkin Industries, Inc. (LUFK) for the long-term, He is also a fan of Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI) and Titanium Metals Corporation (TIE) as long-term plays. With war and political uncertainty looming, this investor likes Ceradyne, Inc. (CRDN) for the next 6 to 12 months. He likes the growth and momentum of JOYG as well as the long-term record of Coventry Health Care, Inc. (CVH). Last but not least among Richard’s favorites is American Retirement Corp. (ACR), “a small company involved in retirement community housing, a perfect long play on the baby boomer retirement trend.” Cryptologic, Inc. (CRYP) was a big winner for Richard after share prices jumped several dollars on a strong report that the savvy investor was expecting.

And how does this market watcher determine when to sell?

Richard believes in setting limits on profits for each stock and adjusting the limits later if needed. I pull out of stocks when I believe the momentum of the stock has broken away from its fundamentals, or if the stock becomes extremely volatile to any news,” noted Richard.

What is his outlook and advice to novices?

The stock trader sees some corrections ahead in certain sectors but is bullish on metals in general. Ultimately, he envisions the Dow ending the year at 11,500. For those just starting out, Richard says research is the key. According to this market player, a good way to start is by emulating the strategies of other successful market gurus and along the way start forming one’s own strategies and investment ideas.

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