For stock investors, sending money abroad worked out pretty well,despite fears of a eurozone collapse. Whether Europe can ride out itsdebt crisis and rebound from its austerity programs in 2013 remains tobe seen.
The MSCI Europe, Australasia and Far East index rose13.7% in 2013, vs. 14.1% for the Standard & Poor's 500 stock indexwith dividends reinvested.
Most European stocks rebounded smartlyfrom their 2011 lows during the height of the Greek debt crisis.Germany's DAX index, for example, soared 29% in 2012, vs. a 10% tumblein 2011.
Biggest gainers among the developed markets: Belgium, up 36.3%, and Denmark, up 30%, according to MSCI.
ByMSCI's reckoning, Japan was a dead weight on international returns. Itsbroad-based Japan index rose just 6.21%. The large-cap Nikkei 225index, however, soared to a 19% gain.
Spain, still strugglingwith massive unemployment and soaring debt, saw its stock market fall3.6%. Greece was close behind with a 3.5% decline, and Portugal fell0.5%.
Emerging markets also fared well in 2012, rising 15.1%,according to MSCI. China's stock market soared 18.7%. The standout:Turkey, up 61.2%.
The big question: How long international stocks,particularly in Europe, can maintain their rally. Austerity programsdesigned to cut government spending will help the biggest debtors --Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain -- in the long run. In the shortterm, however, massive layoffs mean massive unemployment, deflation,and plunging economic growth in those countries.
The Eurozone --the 17 countries that use the euro as a common currency -- willprobably muddle through in 2013, says Michael Hasenstab of FranklinTempleton Investments. "Greece will probably remain in the eurozone."Panic surrounding issues in the rest of the eurozone, such as inSpain, Italy and Ireland, also appears to us to be overstated."
Onebright note for 2013: China is embarking on yet another stimulusprogram, which should help its major trading partners in Asia. Unlikeprevious programs, however, China's 2013 push will be to boost itsdomestic technology and consumer industries, rather thaninfrastructure.