2008 is, mercifully, just a few trading days away from being history.
Rather than be fashionably late in mourning the losses, let's take a look at some of the opportunities for 2009.
I have taken a look at the one search engine I would like to own for the year ahead, as well as the one Chinese growth stock and the one restaurant stock. Today I'll turn my attention to leisure stocks.
Stocks just want to have fun
Where have all the good times gone? Consumer-facing companies have taken a bath this year. Unless you happen to offer cheap burgers, superhero blockbusters, or DVDs by mail, you're probably staring at a woeful 2008.
I certainly don't expect the economy to improve in the near term. However, I know that recession-smacked consumers still need a little escape from the gloom and doom. Companies that are able to provide superior entertainment experiences at a reasonable price should fare well next year.
And the runners-up are ...
Believe it or not, it's hard to narrow this sector down to just a few potential winners. I actually have several runners-up, and you will probably warm up to a few of them once you hear their story.
I'll start with Cedar Fair
However, the reason that I like Cedar Fair here is that as a seasonal park, it's in hibernation right now. No matter how bad the economy gets in the coming months, most of its parks are closed until April and May. This gives the economy a shot to at least show some signs of life around the time that income tax refunds start coming in.
Another leisure stock I really like is Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK). The Japanese video game titan rarely misses. It has the market's leading video game console with the Wii and the top handheld device with its Nintendo DS. Unlike other console makers, most of Nintendo's leading games are homegrown. So it gets to cash in on the high-margin software side. A pronounced recession means more family nights in, and the Wii is there with its innovative family-friendly games.
Multiplex operators may also fare well through the downturn, as long as Hollywood keeps delivering hits. Stiff box office prices may lead movie buffs to wait to catch the flicks at home. That plays well for Blockbuster
Life Time Fitness
The last runner-up is Southwest
And the winner is: Activision Blizzard
The best bang for your buck in 2009 here is Activision Blizzard
There has been plenty of negative news in the sector, but Activision Blizzard has consistently held up its side of the bargain with shareholders. It has blown past Wall Street expectations all year long, even as lesser players have skidded.
Just as the Wii has made staying in a family-friendly experience, Activision Blizzard has made it cool. How many retailer ads have you seen over the holidays with families playing Guitar Hero World Tour? The stock rocks, in every conceivable way.
Other items on the list: