Investing is a harsh taskmaster. Each day, cold, hard numbers tell you what you got right and what you got wrong.
If you've been bullish on a country's stock market and that country lights up the scoreboard with big gains, you feel vindicated about your powers of prognostication.
Sometimes the country you tap for big gains is a turnaround story and one where the markets have been beaten down too far, too fast. That's what the original Global Guru, John Templeton, did, investing only in the countries where "the outlook was always the worst."
Other times, a country's stock market strength is based purely on momentum and the influx of "hot money" flowing into that market.
Finally, a country's strong stock market performance can just leave you scratching your head. It is hard to come up with a rational explanation even with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
On Monday, I saw examples of all three cases as I surveyed the 46 global stock markets I monitor daily at my firm, Global Guru Capital.
It turns out that the top three markets of 2015 so far have come from big gains in a once beaten-down market; a stock market bubble that will end in tears; and, most interestingly, in a country that is far off the radar screen of even the most sophisticated global investors.
NOTE: Global Guru Capital is a Securities and Exchange Commission-registered investment adviser, and is not affiliated with Eagle Financial Publications.
First Place: Russia — An 'I Told You So' Moment
So, what did my latest survey of top-performing global markets reveal?
First, it showed me that my bullish call in July 2014 on Russian stocks is paying off big time.
Year to date, the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) is the best-performing global equity market with a total return of 31%.
Plunging oil prices, a ruptured ruble and Western economic sanctions prompted by the annexation of Crimea made the Russian equity market an investment pariah.
As sure as day follows night, an extremely bearish article on Russia and its wounded economy on the cover of The Economist magazine appeared in November of 2014.
That's also when I wrote about how this epic bad press could be the turning point investors needed to get back into Russian equities.
The pendulum had swung against Russian stocks way too far. It was time to grit your teeth and buy Russia.
Second Place: China — A Living, Breathing Bubble
The second-best-performing market in 2015 is the once-again-trendy China. The iShares China Large-Cap (FXI), the benchmark fund for China, has delivered a total return of 21.12% year to date (YTD).
I say once again trendy because a few years back no market was hotter than China, as the endless promises of the "China Miracle" once filling your email inbox could attest.
Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, everyone "knew" the Chinese stock bubble was destined to burst. Sadly, once the music in this game of musical chairs stopped, many investors couldn't find a seat and suffered tremendous losses.
Now it appears we've come full circle.
As economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, "The financial memory is very short."
The Chinese stock market bubble is back. It recently has been reported that the Chinese have started taking second mortgages to funnel capital into the Chinese equity market boom. More and more Chinese are scrambling to get in on the action, as 1.68 million new brokerage accounts were opened in the week ended April 10.
A recent analysis in the Financial Times of Chinese valuations shows just how frothy this bubble has become. For example, consider the data here regarding the median company's valuation, based on forward price/earnings (P/E) ratios, in the following markets: