Apple did briefly slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of financial gods in 2012, busting through $700 a share and coming within striking distance of a $1 trillion market capitalization. It closed out 2012 on a strong note, up almost four and half percent, to $532.17.
If you'd bought a single share at the beginning of the year, you'd have seen a better-than-31-percent return on your investment.
That was more than double the S&P 500's return, a very respectable 13-plus percent, and much better than what the Dow managed, a mere 7.25 percent (which, it should be noted, is still more than three times the rate of inflation, currently running at about 2 percent).
Now, if you wanted that Apple return, you'd have been forced to endure some knee-knocking volatility — and you might be cursing yourself for not selling when the stock was trading at its yearly high.
Still, 30 percent is nothing to sneeze at. Other stocks performed better. But Apple is in the midst of an epic run. On balance, it was the stock to buy in 2012, and unsurprisingly, a lot of major institutional investors and hedge funds did just that.
However, in one of the most...well, let's just say unpredictable years in U.S. economic history, now coming to and end with yet another showdown over money matters in Washington, you could also have invested in the S&P and ignored everything for 12 months.
And you would have made 13 cents on every dollar.
This is something to bear in mind as 2012 gives way to 2013: investing in a diverse index of the entire stock market may not be very thrilling, and you won't get monster returns. But you will be able to sleep at night knowing that, over the long haul, you'll probably do OK. And in a year like 2012, a bit better than OK.