2008's Financial Winner's and Losers

Not since the Great Depression has America seen so much heartache and pain in the financial world.

It would be a massive understatement to say that 2008 had a few folks who lost big in the stock market.

The year was full of sob stories, from homeowners being forced out, to everyday investors seeing their 401(k)s shrink, to millions of Americans losing their jobs.

In every downturn, though, there are also a few winners and 2008 was no exception. So here is a look at some of 2008's financial world winners and the -- unfortunately -- longer list of losers.

The clearest indicator of just how bad a year it was can be seen in the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average is down more than 35 percent and the NASDAQ is down more than 41 percent.

The pain has hit all: big-time investors, everyday savers, pension funds and even charities. Falling stock prices along with falling home prices have made all Americans feel worse off and many have cut back on their spending to compensate.

$50 Billion Scam

Just when it seemed the year couldn't get much worse, news came that trader Bernard L. Madoff had allegedly lost $50 billion -- yes billion -- worth of investors' money in a massive scam.

The scope of his victims is impressive. Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg both are reported to have lost from the funds. So did banks HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. Tufts University has written off a $20 million investment with Madoff, and Yeshiva University is another reported victim. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. What a way to end the year.

Investment Banks' Collapse

Perhaps the biggest signs of Wall Street's fall can be found by looking at Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch -- three of Wall Street's most esteemed and biggest investment banks who all saw their demise in 2008.

The first to fall was Bear Stearns. The firm was heavily invested and highly leveraged against subprime mortgage investments. Investors became worried about the firm's health in March, and in a matter of days, people pulled their money, creating a massive cash shortage. The federal government orchestrated a last-second bailout with J.P. Morgan Chase buying Bear out for just $10 a share. Within the previous year, its shares had been trading as high as $130.

Then, in September, the market was hit with another devastating blow: Lehman Brothers announced that it, too, could no longer continue operations and was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the largest filing in U.S. history.

Lehman's North American operations were sold to Barclays and Nomura acquired its overseas assets.

The third Wall Street demise came from Merrill Lynch, which was quickly sold off to Bank of America.

Gambling in a Crisis

J.P. Morgan Chase and its CEO James S. Dimon were among the few winners on Wall Street this year. The bank played a major role in the credit crisis, first taking over Bear Stearns in a government-orchestrated deal and then buying out most of Washington Mutual after federal officials seized the bank.

The company's stock is down for the year -- but then again, so is everybody's -- and only time will tell if Dimon's moves were smart. But at least at the end of 2008, he appears to have emerged a winner.

Vegas' Losing Streak

As the recession has deepened, casinos have been hit hard, especially those in Las Vegas where visitors arrive after either a long drive through the desert or a flight into town.

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