Before you flip to our cover package on the Investment Outlook for 2010, spare a few minutes for 2009. Was it a good year or a bad year? In the next pages, we'll weigh the evidence. On the good side, the Standard & Poor's (MHP) 500-stock index rose almost 23% through mid-December, and the Nasdaq gained nearly 40%. On the bad side, the U.S. unemployment rate hit a quarter-century high, the federal budget deficit grew to its biggest share of the economy since 1945, and the anger toward Wall Street, personified in the extreme by the villainous Bernie Madoff, clouded reason. It was a year of ups (gold and foreclosures) and downs (Tiger Woods and the U.S. dollar). General Motors and Chrysler entered bankruptcy court but quickly got out. Billionaire Warren Buffett claimed that his purchase of Burlington Northern (BRKA) was an "all-in bet on the economic future of the United States," but then, what kind of future? The railroad hauls coal, lumber, and agricultural products—not exactly cutting-edge. Oh, well. At least the U.S. is in better shape than Greece, the new sick man of Europe. Turn the page, dear reader, and relive 12 months you're not likely to forget.
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