Despite huge swings, in the U.S. markets ended the year remarkably close to where they began. - 

A graph of the stock market in 2011 looks like a contour map of Death Valley glued to the Himalayas. Despite huge swings, the S&P 500 index ended the year remarkably close to where it began.

Derek Jaskulski is a principal at Portland Global Advisors in Portland, Maine. He says you got to hand it to a market that can go through such scary volatility and still end up pretty much with a shrug. Jaskulski says it could be credit to a geniune balance of opinions in the market after all.

Looking ahead to 2012, Jakulski says he's watching three main things:

  • In the US, the bottoming in the housing market vs. the drag on earnings from the strong dollar.
  • In Europe, the futility of austerity and the fact that everyone in the world cannot run a trade surplus.
  • In the emerging markets, many are currently suffering from end-of-year tax selling and whether their central banks have room to ease the pressure.

Jaskulski says most people think a strong dollar's a good thing. It is if you're earning money overseas. A strong dollar means you'll get more back in the U.S. But there is a downside -- one that has real impact for U.S. manufacturers -- f you make something to sell overseas, a strong dollar makes your product more expensive. With more U.S. goods being sold on foreign shores, a strong dollar could cut into corporate earnings in the coming year.

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