Odds are you made a little money in the stock market in 2009. You may even be feeling pretty good about yourself.

After an awful 2008 and an even more awful start to 2009, the U.S. stock market rebounded in a big way, with our benchmark index rising more than 20% during the calendar year. Even better, widely held stocks such as Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) all more than doubled last year.

That's all well and good, but I want you to ask yourself: Could you have done better?

The answer is ...
U.S. stocks had an undoubtedly good year, but we actually lagged the rest of the world by a wide margin.

Excluding the United States, global stocks rose nearly 40% in 2009, and some markets did even better than that. According to data from Dow Jones, China was up more than 116%, Indonesia 87%, Brazil 82%, and India 81%.

What's more, you could easily have put some of the magnitude of these returns in your portfolio by buying shares of companies that operate in these markets.



2009 Return





Telkom Indonesia



MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI)



Sterlite Industries (NYSE:SLT)


All four of these foreign companies are easily purchased, U.S.-listed stocks, and all four were active Motley Fool Global Gains recommendations when 2009 began. Together, they helped our portfolio of recommendations return more than 70% in 2009.

And that's how you could have done even better in 2009: By adding a little global exposure to your portfolio.

Don't miss out
If you didn't have any global exposure in 2009, then you did miss out on a good year in emerging markets. That's the bad news.

The good news is that 2010 is shaping up to be another good year for emerging-markets investors, and you'll do better in 2010 if you add global exposure to your portfolio today.

Goldman Sachs recently released data, reported in The Economist, that showed that "the biggest emerging markets -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- have accounted for 45% of global growth" since 2007. This is an incredible trend, and one that Goldman, The Economist, and our team at Global Gains all expect to continue in 2010 and beyond.

That's because these emerging markets not only survived the recent economic downturn in better shape than the U.S., but can point to significant advantages over the U.S. when it comes to spurring growth going forward. In Brazil and Indonesia, the advantage is an ample supply of important natural resources such as oil; in India, a young and vibrant workforce; in China, a high savings rate that can support consumer activity.

What's worth buying
Of course, smart investors like you want to know if there are still any cheap stocks out there following these significant stock market gains. Well, Templeton Asset Management chairman Mark Mobius wrote on his blog recently that he's still "finding opportunities in almost all emerging markets," and we've had no shortage of new ideas at Global Gains.

If you'd like to learn more about a few of our ideas, simply click here to join Global Gains free this month. You'll enjoy access to all of our premium research with no obligation to subscribe.

Tim Hanson is co-advisor of Global Gains. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. Google and MercadoLibre are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Apple and Amazon.com are Stock Advisor recommendations. CNOOC, Sterlite Industries India, and Telkom Indonesia are Global Gains selections. Telkom Indonesia is an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Telkom Indonesia. The Fool's disclosure policy had a pretty good year except for that one night last March ...