This year, the stock market has been glowing as brightly as the seasonal lights that now bedeck holiday streetscapes.
But if you want your investments to keep doing well in 2014, look away from the shiny stuff. If the winners of 2013 follow historical patterns, they won't sustain their market-beating performances next year.
Consider the most stellar performer of 2012.
As housing rebounded, the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF was the place to be in 2012. It led the pack with a nearly 80 percent return for the year, as companies like PulteGroup Inc., Lennar Corp. and D.R. Horton, Inc. made up for time and big money lost to the housing crisis.
This year, the housing market was even stronger than it was in 2012, but investors in the iShares ETF didn't share the wealth.
The hot, institutional money had moved onto other sectors and the fund returned 11 percent to investors through December 20 - less than one-third of the 36-percent returns investors in consumer cyclical stocks saw, according to Morningstar.
It's not just skittish sector funds that fail to follow big years with more big years.
Let's look at an entire country: The EGShares India Consumer ETF represents a slice of the second-most populous country on the planet and one that's moving toward growing a solid middle class. Last year, the fund grew nearly 52 percent, placing it in the top tier of all ETFs. For the past year, though, this fund is down nearly 10 percent through December 20.
While there are a handful of exceptions, the general rule is that repeat performance is a fickle beast. You can't expect a fund to consistently echo its best year; it's a statistical black swan.
No Repeat Performance