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March Madness: Equities Edition

Are you going mad yet?  Because it's the time of year for it. Never mind the Ides of March coming up, which celebrate the traditional day on which politicians murder leaders they believe to have

Are you going mad yet?  Because it’s the time of year for it. Never mind the Ides of March coming up, which celebrate the traditional day on which politicians murder leaders they believe to have become tyrannical in the name of liberty. Never mind St. Patrick’s Day which, at least in the United States, is often used as cache for things like getting blackout drunk by 9 am or wearing hideously green outfits. The biggest event in March for many if not most Americans is a 64-team (65 if you count the play-in) single elimination basketball tournament to crown the NCAA champion for the year.

There is truly no sports event in the world that quite matches the excitement and passion of March Madness. The tournament attracts millions of eyeballs. Even some that are still at the office and shouldn’t technically be watching. What makes March Madness so fascinating is the immediacy it offers. The ultimate champion will be the one team that can win six straight games (seven if you’re in the play-in game), and one bad game can mean the end of one’s title dreams. Be sure to keep checking the Market Madness Bracket.

March Madness: Stock Style

So, in order to brazenly capitalize on the popularity of the basketball tournament, has developed its own single-elimination competition composed entirely of stocks. Over the next few weeks, 64 companies (there will be no play-in and, therefore, no more need for further parentheticals) will be pitted against each other for one day on the markets and the company that posts the bigger gain (or smaller loss) on the day will advance while the vanquished company will be eliminated. Apple (AAPL) may have overtaken Exxon Mobil (XOM) in total market cap, but can it perform when it counts? How about First Solar (FSLR) representing green-tech small caps? promises all of the excitement of the NCAA tournament (okay, maybe not quite ALL of it) but with its own market spin.  So, without further ado, beginning this Thursday right here on, here is: Market Madness.

Market Madness: The Brackets

Much like the brackets in March Madness are broken down into regions, Market Madness will break companies down into four different 16-company brackets. However, rather than going regional, the brackets will be broken down by market cap and past performance.

Bracket One: Blue Chips

And no, in this case, that isn’t referring to potential recruits. Here are the seeds and first round match-ups seeded by total market cap:

1. Apple (AAPL) vs. 16. JP Morgan (JPM)

2. Exxon Mobil (XOM) vs. 15. Coca-Cola (KO)

3. Microsoft (MSFT) vs. 14. Pfizer (PFE)

4. IBM (IBM) vs. 13. Wells Fargo (WFC)

5. Chevron (CVX) vs. 12. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

6. Wal-Mart (WMT) vs. 11. AT&T (T)

7. General Electric (GE) vs. 10. Procter & Gamble (PG)

8. Google (GOOG) vs. 9. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)

The blue chip bracket offers a very intriguing first-round match-up between internet giant Google and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway.

Upset Alert: While there’s never been a 16-1 upset in the actual tournament, if goods news regarding sovereign debt comes out of Europe on Thursday, JP Morgan might get just the bump it needs to knock off top seeded Apple.

Bracket Two: Mid Majors

Coming in between $2 billion and $100 billion in market cap, these companies are seeded by performance over the last year.

1. Cobalt Internatoinal Energy (CIE) vs. 16. The Gap (GPS)

2. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) vs. 15. Valero Energy (VLO)

3. RSC Holdings (RRR) vs. 14. Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN)

4. Seagate Technology (STX) vs. 13. Bank of America (BAC)

5. Cheniere Energy (LNG) vs. 12. Netflix (NFLX)

6. Illumina (ILMN) vs. 11. Fossil (FOSL)

7. Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) vs. 10. Lululemon Athletica (LULU)

8. Youku (YOKU) vs. 9. Tata Motors (TTM)

Look for a stirring match-up Cheniere and the much maligned Netflix in the first round.

Upset Alert: Seagate Technology, riding high off of a lucky break during the Thai floods of last year, meets a hungry Bank of America that’s been on a bull run since mid-December last year.

Bracket Three: Road to Redemption

All of these companies have taken major hits over the last year, losing share price and looking for a chance to bounce back.

1. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) vs. 16. R.R. Donnelley & Sons (RRD)

2. Baker Hughes (BHI) vs. 15. United Therapeutics (UTHR)

3. Alcoa (AA) vs. 14. DeVry (DV)

4. Carnival (CCL) vs. 13. Southwest Airlines (LUV)

5. Yahoo (YHOO) vs. 12. Peabody Energy (BTU)

6. First Solar (FSLR) vs. 11. US Steel (X)

7. Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) vs. 10. Inergy (NRGY)

8. Arch Coal (ACI) vs. 9. NII Holdings (NII)

Look for the travel-stocks matchup as Carnival Cruise Lines takes on Southwest Airlines.

Upset Alert: First Solar has been beaten down and lost over 80 percent over the last year. Can classic program US Steel take advantage of the extended slump?

Bracket Four: Cinderellas

These small cap companies are looking to crash the party and ruin things for the major players. Seeded based on the last month of performance.

1. Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD) vs. 16. Interline Brands (IBI)

2. Flagstar Bancorp (FBC) vs. 15. TPC Group (TPCG)

3. Transcend Services (TRCR) vs. 14. American Vanguard (AVD)

4. Medidata Solutions (MDSO) vs. 13. Hop Topic (HOTT)

5. LivePerson (LPSN) vs. 12. Tangoe (TNGO)

6. Advance America (AEA) vs. 11. Cenveo (CVO)

7. Smith & Wesson (SWHC) vs. 10. Cempra (CEMP)

8. iPass (IPAS) vs. 9. Pilgrim’s Pride (PPC)

Is Hot Topic “HOTT” enough to win this bracket, because Smith & Wesson is gunning for them.

Upset Alert: Can American Vanguard be Transcended? Or will it remain vigilant?

“Games” Begin Thursday

Please return after market close on Thursday to get the results from the first round for the Cinderellas and Blue Chip brackets!