Although many investors have expressed frustration with stock market fluctuations in recent years, the time required to recover losses from the October 2007 peak appears broadly consistent with past cycles.
It took nearly 4½ years, but the cumulative wealth of an S&P 500 strategy with dividends reinvested finally reached an all-time record (measured on a month-end basis) in March 2012, and finished the year 3.3% above the previous high-water mark set in October 2007. Results were slightly better for a small-company Russell 2000 strategy: As of December 2012, cumulative wealth was 8.5% higher than the previous peak in May 2007.
Every year brings its share of surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2012 was the strength in stock and bond prices around the world despite a steady stream of discouraging news events. Individual investors and professionals alike were often flummoxed by markets that failed to behave in accordance with their pessimistic assessment of the future. A few examples are listed by clicking on the image below.