For global markets, 2013 was a year for the record books.
That said, it was not a great year for emerging markets (China and Brazil, specifically), but it was the best 12-month stretch for index investors in several years.
The year in review, by the numbers:
The S&P 500 rose 29 percent, it's best year since 1997;
saw a 56 percent gain, its biggest since 1972;
Germany rallied 25 percent, its largest since 2012;
France spiked 17 percent, its best performance since 2009;
The UK jumped 14 percent, in its most favorable showing since 2009;
The outliers were , which retreated 6 percent in its worst performance since 2011; and , which skidded 15 percent (also its worst since 2011).
1) I was asked why the (VIX) spiked up almost 9 percent yesterday, on a day when the S&P 500 was flat.This is likely due to seasonal factors.
The VIX measures demand 30 calendar days out for near-term puts and calls in the S&P 500. Because of the holidays, demand for protection has dropped, as it usually does this time of year. Traders typically lower volatility during the week from Dec 14 to December 21 to account for the "dead" week between Christmas and New Year. Now that we are coming out of the holiday season, volatility is returning to the levels it showed earlier in the month.
By the way, volatility traders tell me that the first week of January is typically the most volatility week in the first half of the year.
2) Home prices gained double digits for an eighth straight month, rising 13.6 percent in October year-over-year, according to S&P Case-Shiller. It's the best level since July 2008, but still 21 percent below its April 2006 peak.
However the month-over-month increase in the 20 city index was only 0.2 percent, much lower than the 0.68 percent gain in September. All 20 cities saw year-over-year price gains.
My wife has been a real estate agent in Philadelphia for over 20 years; her biggest problem for 2014 is convincing sellers not to keep asking for higher prices, since she saw buyers clearly pushing back in 2013.
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani