Top 10 Winners & Losers of 2009

Plenty can happen during the course of a year. We came into 2009 with much despair and are leaving with hope. Of course, as with any other year, some expectations were met, there were also some disappointments, and uncertainty seems to rule.
And over the course of the year, we had our share of winners and losers. Without further ado, here is The Finance Professor's list of the Top 10 Winners & Losers of 2009, beginning with the five biggest winners.

Winner 1: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs had a form of pancreatic cancer. He cheated death. He then had a liver transplant. He cheated death again. He's built Apple ( AAPL) into of the largest and the fastest-growing technology companies in the world. Through last Friday, Apple's stock price had appreciated 144% in 2009.

Winner 2: The Gold Bugs

You have to give these creatures credit when credit is due. Just like the cicadas, the gold bugs emerge every few years. 2009 was their year. According to data from Kitco, the price of gold rose by 25.3%, from $881.10 on Dec. 31, 2008, to $1,104.10 before the holiday break. But I have some bad news for the gold bugs: The Nasdaq 100 rose 54.3%, and the S&P 500 rose a not-too-shabby 24.7% in the same period of time. Still, I have to tip my hat to the gold bugs, who finally put in a decent year.

Winner 3: Brian Cashman

Whenever the City of New York is in the dumps, the Yankees come along to the Big Apple's emotional rescue. (Note to readers: cue up the Rolling Stones here.) In the late 1970s when NYC was being burned and looted and was on the verge of bankruptcy, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry gave the citizens a victory. In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, Derek Jeter & Co. won the American League pennant and played in one of the most exciting World Series in history. In 2009, the Yankees won their 27th world championship.

Of course, the "Core 4" of Jeter, Andy Petite, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera got all the media attention. But it was Brian Cashman's off-season deals that engineered the championship. Certainly he spent plenty of money. So did other teams. But he spent it wisely. Sort of like Goldman Sachs ( GS). Others waste good money. Sort of like John Thain.

Winner 4: Jamie Dimon

Despite the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, one money-center bank stood head and shoulders above the crowd. That was JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), the ancestor of the old house of Morgan. Leading JPMorgan from the top of the financial mount Olympus was Jamie Dimon. Dimon not only was able to prevent his bank from succumbing to the credit and mortgage crisis, but he also strengthened JPMorgan by adding on the remnants of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, with the help of the federal government.

Winner 5: Star Trek

First there was the original Star Trek series with Captain Kirk and crew. Then we had a series of Star Trek movies and sequel series. Some were better than others, but overall, the Star Trek phenomenon was most endearing to anyone who was born before 1980. That all changed in 2009 with the release of the new Star Trek prequel from Time Warner's ( TWX)Paramount, which became one of the biggest box-office winners of 2009. While Star Trek was a winner, however, Time Warner still has its issues.

Loser 1: The State of Michigan

I have nothing against the state of Michigan. I even changed planes there once. However, the fall of Chrysler and General Motors, coupled with a devastating real estate market, did not grace the state with the most flattering light. On top of all that, the Detroit Lions are the laughingstock of the NFL -- the old Pontiac Silverdome was sold for less than the value of my home -- and the site of the old majestic Tiger Stadium is a deserted wasteland. At least Michigan did not lose an Olympic bid.

Loser 2: Leveraged ETFs

In 2008, there was a feeding frenzy in the markets for leveraged ETFs. Leveraged ETFs, long and short, were being created rapidly, and the market could not soak them up fast enough. But investors got burned and learned their lesson. In 2009, the appetite for leveraged ETFs waned, the creation of new funds slowed to a trickle, and new trading or margin restrictions were implemented by brokers and regulators.

Loser 3: Raj Rajaratnam

Though his actions will have repercussions for years to come, Bernie Madoff was a 2008 story. Taking center stage this year in criminal court was Raj Rajaratnam. Not since Dennis Levine, Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky and Drexel Lambert have we seen an insider case of this magnitude and with as far-reaching implications for Wall Street. It is quite possible that Rajaratnam is but the tip of the iceberg in what could be a roundup of hedge fund managers trading on inside information.

Loser 4: Jay Leno and NBC

NBC Universal took a big chance when it decided to cancel original 10 p.m. primetime programming and put Jay Leno on then instead As it turns out, television viewers enjoy CSI in any form that CBS ( CBS) has to offer over Leno. To make matters worse, the poor Leno lead-in has hurt The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Loser 5: Balloon Boy's Parents

In October, Richard and Hayumi Heene concocted and executed a hoax in the hopes of landing their own reality television show. These upstanding parents had already been featured on ABC's "Wife Swap" a few years ago. Any producer who watched that episode would have to be as wacko as the Heene couple to give them a reality show.

At the time of publication, Rothbort was long Goldman Sachs and Apple, although positions can change at any time.

Scott Rothbort has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He is the Founder and President of LakeView Asset Management, a registered investment advisor specializing in customized separate account management for high net worth individuals. In addition, he is the founder of TheFinanceProfessor.com, an educational social networking site; and, publisher of The LakeView Restaurant & Food Chain Report. Rothbort is also a Term Professor of Finance at Seton Hall University's Stillman School of Business, where he teaches courses in finance and economics. He is the Chief Market Strategist for The Stillman School of Business and the co-supervisor of the Center for Securities Trading and Analysis.

Mr. Rothbort is a regular contributor to TheStreet.com's RealMoney Silver website and has frequently appeared as a professional guest on Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Television, Fox Business Network, CNBC Television, TheStreet.com TV and local television. As an expert in the field of derivatives and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), he frequently speaks at industry conferences. He is an ETF advisory board member for the Information Management Network, a global organizer of institutional finance and investment conferences. In addition, he is widely quoted in interviews in the printed press and on the internet.

Mr. Rothbort founded LakeView Asset Management in 2002. Prior to that, since 1991, he worked at Merrill Lynch, where he held a wide variety of senior-level management positions, including Business Director for the Global Equity Derivative Department, Global Director for Equity Swaps Trading and Risk Management, and Director for secured funding and collateral management for the Global Capital Markets Group and Corporate Treasury. Prior to working at Merrill Lynch, within the financial services industry, he worked for County Nat West Securities and Morgan Stanley, where he had international assignments in Tokyo, Hong Kong and London. He began his career working at Price Waterhouse from 1982 to 1984.

Mr. Rothbort received an M.B.A., majoring in Finance and International Business from the Stern School of Business, New York University, in 1992, and a B.Sc. in Economics, majoring in Accounting, from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, in 1982. He is also a graduate of the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Mr. Rothbort is married to Layni Horowitz Rothbort, a real estate attorney, and together they have five children.

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