Hanoi highschooler raises virtual account by 7-fold to enter US stock market contest's final round

By Thanh Hang   March 22, 2024 | 04:21 pm PT
Hanoi highschooler raises virtual account by 7-fold to enter US stock market contest's final round
Do Thai Toan in a uniform of Olympia High School in Hanoi, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang
An 11th grader at Olympia High School in Hanoi is one of 25 youths around the world that has made it to the final round of a stock market trading competition held by the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Do Thai Toan was ranked sixth out of 800 contestants in the Virtual Trading Competition round of the contest, which last throughout February.

Toan will take part in the Live Trading Competition Event that will be held at the institute's School of Business in New Jersey on April 19.

The school has run the Trading Day competition for 10th and 11th-grade students for the past two years.

According to information from the university's website, Trading Day incorporates both a virtual and live trading competition, as well as educational webinars which are moderated by the finance faculty at Stevens on topics such as how the stock market works, what inflation is and how it affects the market, what are the intricacies of the cryptocurrency markets, and how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the financial markets.

For the final round, the Live Trading Competition Event, only 25 contestants were chosen.

Toan said he learned about the concept of stocks a few years ago but only at a basic level, without delving deeper.

Interested in finance and economics, he frequently reads news related to the Federal Reserve (Fed), follows political and social changes worldwide, and their impact on the market.

He knew about the Trading Competition late last year through a friend. Despite recognizing the benefits of international competitions for study abroad applications, he hesitated for two weeks, worried about the competition's impact on his studies.

Eventually, he registered just a few days before the deadline, which was Jan. 19 this year.

In the application round, participants had to demonstrate their English proficiency and financial and economic knowledge by addressing scenarios provided by the organizers.

After that, over 800 contestants were selected for the Virtual Trading Competition round.

With US$1 million in virtual money, contestants had to make as much profit as possible through stock transactions. They operated on a virtual system, but all data and stock fluctuations were real-time from the actual market.

To make decisions, Toan relied on the Relative Strength Index, Exponential Moving Average, and trading volume of stocks. Additionally, he combined news reading to predict market fluctuations.

The U.S. stock market is open from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Vietnam time.

Therefore, Toan had to adjust his personal schedule, prioritizing study time and temporarily setting aside his basketball activities to focus on the competition.

Each night, he would study the market and trade until 2 a.m., focusing on adjusting volatile stocks. For the rest, he set orders for more stable stocks.

"When I sleep, the market could fluctuate, and I wouldn't be able to react, so I reserve the 2-7 a.m. slot for quality, stable stocks to minimize the risk of losing money," he said.

In the first week, Toan earned $300,000 in virtual money but later experienced a $2 million loss.

He evaluated a stock with "very beautiful" indicators so he short-sold it, and hoped its price would drop below $10. However, due to acquisitions, the stock continuously rose, reaching up to $31.5, causing a $800,000 loss.

"The lesson I learned is that beautiful indicators don't decide everything; other factors must also be considered," he said.

Nevertheless, by the end of this round, Toan's account balance was $7.5 million, increasing his initial capital by 7.5 times.

Participating in the competition, Toan applied knowledge from his AP Economics and Law and Macroeconomics classes at school. Those subjects helped him understand economies, monetary policies, market operations, and investment, saving, and financial management principles.

At the same time, he also learned new skills, such as how to search, systematize, and filter information. Then he applied them to his studying.

"This is especially useful when applied to my studies, helping me save time while still getting the information I need," Toan said.

Ngo Minh Trang, Toan's economics teacher, noted that he has good thinking skills and often self-studies this subject using materials beyond the curriculum.

He doesn't hesitate to ask his teachers about things he doesn't understand. As a result, he has made quick progress, offering sharp and in-depth market analyses, she said.

"The competition demands a high level of knowledge for an 11th grader, but Toan has done well. Not just I, but many teachers are surprised by his understanding and analytical capabilities," she said.

According to the plan, the 25 contestants will travel to Stevens School of Business in New Jersey in mid-April, covering their own travel expenses.

There, they will attend classes on professional financial information systems and new trends in the finance sector. Additionally, contestants will have the opportunity to use the renowned financial data analysis system, the Bloomberg Terminal, before competing in the final round.

Toan said he was pleased with his 6th place and is considering the option of traveling to the U.S. to continue the competition.

He noted that April-May was a crucial time for preparing his SAT standardized test and study abroad application, and he wants to maintain his academic performance in class.

"Regardless of my decision, I've had such a memorable experience, which now reinforces my intention to pursue a career in finance," he said.

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