(MoneyWatch) Going into the last trading day of November, U.S. stocks were up for the month 0.45 percent, as measured by the Wilshire 5000. Stocks rose seven of the last nine trading days. Stocks declined post election and subsequently recovered. International stocks rose about two percent for the month.
Headlines for the month included the election and the hope and disappointment of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. The cliff is now only 31 days away.
For the year, U.S. stocks are up 14.95 percent, while international stocks are up 13.31 percent. European stocks are up 16.81 percent, emerging markets up 11.88 percent, and Pacific Rim stocks up 10.61 percent. All of these numbers are measured using the broad Vanguard index funds. This follows the same results as 2011, where European stocks performed much better than emerging market and Pacific Rim stocks.
The market is unpredictable and even hard to explain, after the fact. Big news doesn't always translate to market volatility. We don't know what the market will do if our Congress sails us off the fiscal cliff.
Second, bad news often makes for a good investment opportunity. The euro crisis has been center stage for international financial markets. Yet, this is the second year European stocks had led the rest of the world. Mad Money's Jim Cramer noted today that the story for 2013 is that Europe is the place to invest. Performance over the last two years, however, isn't indicative of the next.
Explaining the market's past is difficult; predicting its future is much harder.