After spending most of 2012 fretting about the weak U.S. recovery, high unemployment and the impending election—not to mention the long-running debt drama in Europe—by December many on Wall Street had settled down to expectations of a not-too-bad 2013. Most see the recovery continuing, and prefer stocks to cash and bonds.

Certainly, all were still eyeing Capitol Hill warily, waiting to see if Congress and the President would drive the country off the "fiscal cliff," a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes set to be triggered January 1, almost certain to plunge the country into recession.

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