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Tickers in this Article: CREE, ABT, NUE, SLX, CLF, NOV, FDO, PBW, XLV
At the end of each year investors have the benefit of using hindsight to identify the best performing stock of the year from the S&P 500. For 2009 though, it will come down to determining which industry will have the best "change". Oil and gas driller National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV) led the way in 2007, while the discount retailer Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) assumed the title for 2008. Investors should consider the following factors before coming up with their short list of hopefuls for 2009.

New Administration
President-Elect Obama begins his administration later this month and he will angle the country towards an economic recovery and a resolution to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Glimpses into solutions for the economy reveal a combination of a stimulus package for individuals, tax incentives for business and financial support for infrastructure development at the state level. The remedies could boldly impact infrastructure players found on the Market Vectors Steel ETF (NYSE:SLX), like Nucor Corp (NYSE:NUE) or Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF). (For more on these types of government solutions, be sure to read our frequently asked question, How do government issued stimulus checks improve the economy?)

Growing Need for Healthcare
Baby Boomers aren't the only ones in need of healthcare services. Obesity among both adults and children is opening the door for a host of costly health-related issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of U.S. adults and 16% of children are obese. Obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes are on the rise in children and adolescents. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies found on the Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLV), such as Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), could stand to benefit from new drugs treatments to battle these growing health-related issues. (Learn more about investing in this sector in our Biotechnology Industry Handbook.)

Pool of Unemployed Workers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.7 million individuals became unemployed during the 12-month period ending in December 2008. Whether or not new jobs from an agricultural revolution or a "Green Revolution" will be enough to offset the job losses remains to be seen. If the turnaround in unemployment does take hold in this industry companies found on the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy (NYSE:PBW) like Cree Inc (NASDAQ:CREE) are worth reviewing.

Final Thoughts
The broad strokes painted above suggest that investors cannot possibly have a clear formula for determining which stocks will come out on top in 2009. The idea is to at least factor in forces driving the economy. The list above is by no means totally encompassing, but keeping an eye on players in infrastructure, healthcare and renewables are great places to begin your search.

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