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December 12, 2008

Turbulent Times in 2008

The Year in Trading

By Michael Scotti

If working through the tough environment of 2007 earned traders a master's degree, then 2008 bestowed upon them a doctorate--that is, if they were able to keep their jobs and if their firms were still in business.

This past year has not been for the faint of heart. Venerable Wall Street firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers capsized, while Merrill Lynch needed a lifeline from Bank of America to stay afloat. Nonperforming derivative instruments blew a hole through their balance sheets, as a result of the subprime financial crises caused by delinquent mortgage payments.

Wall Street and markets around the world teetered, and uncertainty reigned as investors questioned the viability of financial institutions. Investors also got hammered, and as of this writing, the S&P 500 is down 40 percent for the year. Ouch!

That was the environment in which traders attempted to ply their trade, a year that saw historic volatility-more than twice last year's high. Many believe that the SEC didn't help matters when it temporarily banned short sales in financial stocks. The silver lining amid the layoffs and negative returns was the huge trading volume, which reached record levels and far outpaced 2007. Against this backdrop, Traders Magazine presents its top stories of 2008.

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