COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Traders are using this last day of October to lock in some of the spectacular gains that have been realized this month. Going into today, the Dow Industrials were up more than 12 percent and will likely post the best October since 1987. At the same time, the major indexes were up more than 3.5 percent last week and that makes it five weeks in a row the Dow has been profitable. All of a sudden the blue chip index is now up 5.6 percent year-to-date.

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How the markets begin November will be determined by a series of economic reports and events this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday the Fed's Open Market Committee will meet to discuss the economy, inflation and interest rates. That means Wednesday Ben Bernanke will meet the press to explain any action -- or lack of action -- to speed up the recovery. You never know when the Fed head will drop a big surprise that could move the markets. One thing is for sure, the closer we get to the 2012 election the less likely the Fed will take any action.

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Also out this week are a series of employment reports leading up to Friday’s update on October's jobless rate and payroll changes. We keep looking for the one monthly report that might show companies are ready to start hiring again.

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Already out this morning is a report from Intuit showing small businesses were hiring in October. Its small business employment index rose slightly, evidence small companies increased payrolls by 30,000 this month although employees were working fewer hours and making less money. On Wednesday we'll get a report from ADP on civilian payrolls for October.

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If they gave out an award for "Bleakest economic report leading into the holidays," the two nominees this year would be Consumer Reports and Bankrate. According to Consumer Reports, "just 33 percent of Americans said they expect to be happier this holiday season than last." Also, Bankrate's financial security index finds, "merely 17 percent of Americans report their overall financial situation is better today than 12 months ago."

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Against such terrible, depressing financial readings, it would make sense these stressed, frustrated consumers would be dramatically cutting back on discretionary spending like Halloween, right? Not a chance. The National Retail Federation says Americans will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween stuff this year, up big time from last year’s $5.8 billion. Give me a break. If people are in such terrible financial conditions one of the easiest things to do would be to cut back on Halloween spending. Yet, 70 percent of people say they will celebrate the "holiday" this year, up from 64 percent last year.

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Speaking of Halloween, a survey finds 92 percent of moms said they plan to raid their kid’s candy bag after trick or treating. What's at the top of their list of goodies they want to pick out from the stash? Snickers bars come in slightly ahead of Reese's peanut butter cups, Hershey's chocolates and M&Ms. Kids say the items they least want to see in their bags are licorice, candy corn and gum.

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California is the second largest pumpkin producer in the United States with a crop of 186 million pounds. Only Illinois out produces the Golden State with a massive pumpkin crop of 427 million pounds. The USDA also includes a couple of other statistics that show the true story of inflation. The report says farm prices for pumpkins have dropped from $12.90 a pound in 2008 to $11 a pound this year. Yet, retail prices for pumpkins have gone up from $3.21 per pumpkin to $4.51.

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It was a terrible performance by the SDSU Aztecs on Saturday, losing to Wyoming, 30-27. No one feels worse than kicker Abel Perez who missed two fourth-quarter field goal attempts that could have either tied or won the game. Speaking of college football, the OT contest between USC and Stanford was about as exciting as a football game can be. Why the NFL won't go with a similar playoff instead of the "lets see who can kick the first field goal" sudden death system is a mystery. The Coliseum in LA was rocking as the teams battled it out with Stanford coming out on top, 56-48.

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