Stocks: 2013 is one for the record books.December 31, 2013: 7:22 AM ET
Here's a fun fact: The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 (SPX), had its strongest performance this year since the Wolf of Wall Street roamed lower Manhattan.
The broad market gauge has gained 29.6% in 2013, its biggest jump since 1997 -- the year before Jordan Belfort, the hard-partying founder of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering.
Belfort, who served nearly two years in prison for his schemes, was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's new film about Wall Street excess.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) had its best year since 1998. The blue chip index gained 26.5% this year, hitting 52 all-time highs along the way. And the Nasdaq (COMP) surged 38%, marking its best year since 2009.
The big winners this year were last year's dogs. Netflix (NFLX), a stock that took a beating in 2012, surged nearly 300%, making it the top performer in the S&P 500. Another company that many left for dead, BestBuy (BBY), came roaring back to life. The stock more than doubled in 2013.
Of course, there were some stinkers too. J.C. Penney (JCP) was the worst performing stock in the S&P 500 until it was booted from the index in November. The stock fell 54% this year.
Officially, the worst performing S&P 500 stock was Newmont Mining (NEM), which sank 50%. The gold mining company was hit by the bursting of a bubble in the gold market. Gold prices fell nearly 30%, their biggest drop since 1981 and the first annual decline for the precious metal since 2000.
Much of the money fleeing the gold market may have found its way into stocks.
Investors put $348.63 billion into stock-based mutual funds and exchange traded funds in 2013, according to data from TrimTabs. That's the largest ever annual inflow and comes after several years of investors pulling money out of these funds.
While investors were making it rain in the stock market, they were running away from bonds.
Investors pulled out $72 billion from bond mutual funds this year through the first week of December, according to TrimTabs.
That's the first time in nearly a decade that investors have taken more money out of bond funds than they've put in -- and it tops the previous record from 1994, when investors withdrew almost $63 billion.
Despite the magnitude of this year's gains, there has been virtually no volatility in stocks. There were only three days when the Dow rose more than 1.5%, according to Schaeffer's Investment Research. In 2012, there were 14.
"I don't know if boring is the right word for a bull market, but we haven't had a lot of fireworks this year," said Ryan Detrick, chief technical strategist at Schaeffer's.
The smooth sailing and record highs helped drive a spike in initial public offerings. In 2013, a total of 222 companies went public in deals that raised nearly $55 billion.
Another sign of the almost universally bullish sentiment, CNNMoney's Fear & Greed index was above the level signaling greed or extreme greed 60% of the time in 2013.
Had a cordial dinner with Tim last night. We pushed hard for a 150 billion buyback. We decided to continue dialogue in about three weeks.—
Carl Icahn (@Carl_C_Icahn) October 01, 2013
So, where does the market go from here? For now, most experts say stocks can go even higher, assuming the economy continues to improve and corporate profits keep rising.
Predicting the future is a tricky business, however.
Back in January, analysts surveyed by CNNMoney expected the S&P 500 would rise 4.5% in 2013 to end at 1,490. That was an understatement.
But stocks are certainly not as cheap as they were a year ago.
With stock prices at all-time highs, market valuations have gone from what is considered cheap to slightly expensive. The S&P 500 currently trades at nearly 15 times next year's earnings estimates, up from about 12 at the beginning of 2013.