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Top 5 Wall Street Stories of 2009

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street experienced a tumultuous 2009, enduring a 12-year market low and the nation's financial system coming back from the brink. Here, in no particular order, are our picks for the top 5 Wall Street stories of 2009:

Bailouts Come and Go

Of all the acronyms rolled out in 2009, TARP may have been the least accurate and the most reviled. But it also represented the biggest market mover of the year.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program never actually handled the troubled assets directly. At first, the $700 billion program was viewed as a positive. It instilled confidence that the financial sector would not, in fact, collapse. Eventually, however, its presence contributed to fears that banks were close to being insolvent and might even be nationalized, sending the stock prices of many companies in the financial sector plummeting to their historic lows in March. Next came the TARP-related stress tests in May that showed the banks were much healthier than the market believed. That, along with signs of improvement in the economy, spurred a rally of more than 60% in the broad market through year-end.

In June, 10 large banks, including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), were granted approval to repay TARP. Their more troubled counterparts were scrambling to exit the program in order to escape government interference with pay and operations in 2010. Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo (WFC) joined the ranks of TARP-free banks just this month.

For a program that was pilloried as a money-losing bailout at the start of 2009, TARP has actually seen some rewards. Though a couple of investments have been lost outright -- like the $2.3 billion funneled into CIT Group (CIT) before it filed for bankruptcy protection -- and dozens of banks have been late with dividend payments, the biggest investments have given taxpayers big returns through dividend payments and warrant repurchases. The government's investment in Goldman, for instance, posted an annualized return of 23%.

-- Written by Lauren LaCapra in New York.

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