There is so much promise and optimism in the onset of any new year that, in this case, we've almost forgotten there is an unlucky "13" inside of it. Nevertheless, at least as far as the market is concerned, I don't think 2013 will offer too much to worry about -- save for any panic caused by a surprise event. With the "fiscal cliff" pushed aside (for now), the U.S. economy is set to move higher and we have less to worry about, which is a good thing.
Why do I seem encouraged about coming year? It's not merely a guess; the data are reflecting optimism. Here in the U.S., companies are showing their muscle and gaining ground, staying lean and mean, and they're posed well for future growth.
Sentiment can move the market tide in and out, but what really matters is productivity, manufacturing and sales -- and, in the third quarter, the U.S. upped exports and cut the deficit by 10%. That's not spectacular, but it is a good start. General productivity levels have been steady and look set to rise, and industrial production in particular is still trending higher. Among sectors, some of the better performers include housing, banking, commodities, industrials, airlines and aerospace/defense.
Overseas, China has lately come through with some solid economic numbers. Purchasing managers are active, and they're picking up the pace for the country's recently announced growth initiatives. Some are expecting China to grow in the mid-8% range in 2013. Meanwhile, Japan has finally woken up and has decided to stimulate its economy with an aggressive yen strategy, something not seen over the past 20 years.
Furthermore, the eurozone continues to show signs it has bottomed. That is good news, as those countries need time to work through their respective debt crisis. Once these have been cast aside, the world's largest economy by region may even contribute some growth in the back-half of the year.
There is an old saying: "As January goes, so goes the rest of the year." If the month gets off to a fast start and the impending political wrangling are resolved amicably (boy, is that an ambitious statement!) then I believe a good 2013 could lie ahead.