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China Among Worst (!) 2010 Performers

S&P futures popped a point or two as initial jobless claims totaled 388,000 for the week, well below the estimates of 416,000 and the lowest since July 2008. Stocks opened modestly lower Thursday .

Chinese PMI came in weaker than expected. The December HSBC Manufacturing PMI index slowed for the first time in five months to 54.4 from 55.3.

Elsewhere:

1) Copper continues at new highs

2) Anadarko Petroleum was up on a report from the UK's "Daily Mail" that BHP Billiton BHP Billiton Ltd may be preparing an offer of $90 a share, a 20 percent premium to the close of $74.48. BHP is bound to get something sometime: its bids for Potash Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Rio Tinto Rio Tinto Ltd went nowhere.

3) ICI reports that US equity mutual funds broke a 33-week losing streak for week ended December 21, with inflows of $335 million. There have essentially been outflows from U.S. equity funds since 2008. What will it take to make U.S. equities respectable again to middle Americans? Maybe when they see the Q4 reports and look at what happened to their bond portfolios in December.

4) 2010 summary. European markets fell in their last full day of trading for the year. Meanwhile, 2010 trading wrapped up today in Japan, the Nikkei closed the year out down 3 percent after being up 19 percent in 2009.

In the 1980s, the Nikkei 225 outperformed the S&P in 7 of the 10 years. But its outperformance over the decade was dramatic. Growing 5 times in value over the decade, the Nikkei 225 (up 492 percent) far outperformed the S&P 500 (up 227 percent) from 1980 to 1989.

But since then, it has been a completely different story. Investing in Japan has clearly not been a winning strategy recently and over the past 2 decades:

a) The Nikkei 225 ended 2010 down 3 percent, its third annual decline in the last four years. Its decline this year was yet another year of underperformance in comparison to the U.S. markets (S&P 500 is up 13 percent this year).

b) Since 1990, the Nikkei 225 has lagged below the S&P 500 every year but four years. More spectacularly, it has plunged 73 percent since 1990 compared to the S&P 500's 281 percent gain.

Take a look at some of the other markets this year. Notice China was among the worst performers for the year, and former darling Brazil managed only a 1 percent gain. And for all the talk about commodity rich countries doing well, Australia was flat.

Americas

Canada +33.33%

Mexico +19.02%

U.S. +12.97%

Brazil +1.11%

Europe

Russia +22.13%

Germany +16.06%

U.K. +10.53%

France -2.00%

Ireland -3.08%

Portugal -9.27%

Spain -16.81%

Greece -35.48%

Asia Pacific

Thailand +40.60%

South Korea +21.88%

India +16.74%

Singapore +10.87%

Taiwan +8.79%

Hong Kong +5.15%

Australia +0.08%

Japan -3.01%

China -15.79%

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