As we move toward the end of 2012, we are bound to hear talk about how it was a strong year for stocks. And at first glance, it is hard to argue with this fact given the double-digit year-to-date increase on the S&P 500. But in reality, focusing only on calendar year start and end dates to measure returns can be rather deceiving, particularly in the volatile markets over the last several years. For when standing back and viewing markets through a more comprehensive lens, we see that stocks over the last two years have provided far less to get excited about than recent headline returns might indicate. And without the vigor provided by monetary stimulus in the months ahead, stocks would otherwise be destined to thrash about in going nowhere except down.