It's been an ugly year for investors in U.S. stocks, but things could be much, much worse. True, there's just a handful of trading days left in 2011, leaving the major indexes perilously close to logging losses for the year. But compared to the rest of the world, U.S. stock markets have fared remarkably well.
The broader S&P 500 is down 4 percent on a price basis so far this year, while the even broader Wilshire 5000 Total Market index has lost about 3 percent. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average has held up a bit better, but it's still off 2 percent. Meanwhile, the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite has had an awful run, shedding more than 5 percent so far in 2011.
It's a depressing situation, and barring sustainable gains through the end of next week, it looks like equity investors will be getting coal in their stockings for Christmas. If there's a silver lining to be found, it's that by one of the broadest measures of international stock-market performance, the U.S. currently stands third for total performance for the year to date.
Indeed, only the emerging markets of the Philippines and Indonesia are actually positive at this point in 2011, according to Standard & Poor's Broad Market Indices (BMI). Here's the percent change of the top 10 performing global stock markets so far this year, by gross total return, in U.S. dollars:
If investors in U.S. indexes are crying into their egg nogs, maybe the relative performance of some other major stock markets will offer solace. In the developed world, Japan has lost 14.8 percent this year, according to S&P BMI, while Germany is down 17.5 percent. France has shed more than 17 percent, too.
Meanwhile, the emerging market powerhouses of Brazil, Russia and China are all down more than 20 percent in 2011. India has lost nearly 38 percent for the year to date.
And as for the world's worst-performing stock market so far in 2011? No surprises there -- it's Greece, which has plunged more than 58 percent.
When it comes to stocks, it's been a tough year around the globe, but a heavy allocation to U.S. equities would have greatly mitigated your portfolio's pain.