COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

Money in the Morning

The bidding war for control of Equity Office Properties took another step higher this morning. Vornado has raised its bid to $56 a share for the company headed by investor Sam Zell, who was in San Diego on Tuesday to speak at the commercial real estate conference at the University of San Diego. The current offer tops a previous bid by the Blackstone group. The newest offer from Vornado takes the price tag for the deal well above $38 billion. EOP owns a variety of office and commercial properties around San Diego County.

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The number of pending home sales in the U.S. rose by 4.9 percent in December, catching a lot of real estate naysayers off guard. "It appears buyers are becoming more comfortable, sensing the timing is good and that their local market has bottomed out," said David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. A pending home sale is a situation where a contract has been signed but the transaction is still in escrow. Here in the West, pending home sales rose by 5.3 percent.

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A new survey from Coldwell Banker finds that the people who buy multi-million dollar homes are "self-made millionaires with new money." Highest on the list are corporate executives followed by doctors, lawyers, entertainers and professional athletes. And, 25 percent of these buyers put down as much as 30 percent to 50 percent of the purchase price. Do the math, on a $5 million home that means plopping down a couple of million dollars.

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Did you see Trevor Hoffman bring the hammer down at the close of trading yesterday at the NYSE? He pounded the gavel two times and I think they are still picking up the splinters. And, he followed that with a fist pump just like he does when he saves a game for the San Diego Padres. No word if he got a chance to shake hands with President Bush, who made a surprise visit to the floor of the exchange. He was in New York to make a speech on the economy and decided to swing by and visit with traders. He is only the second sitting president to make such a visit. The other was Ronald Reagan in 1985.

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Imagine your bad luck if you are a big football fan and have to take an airplane flight this Sunday afternoon. Well, good news if you are flying on Jet Blue. The airline says it will broadcast the Super Bowl on all of its flights. Better yet, it is throwing in free beer and snacks.

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