COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

It's déjà vu all over again. Stock prices fell again yesterday as investors continue to express their doubt the Obama administration and Congress will set aside their egos and come up with some way to avoid the fiscal cliff. The Dow Industrials have been down in six of the past seven sessions and have lost 700 points during the decline. Reports today suggest there had been some progress in early negotiations before members of Congress headed to the White House this morning. However, stocks are lower in early trading.

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Speaking of the fiscal cliff, Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma National University's Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, mentioned during her 2013 economic forecast presentation yesterday that her students are getting tired of the expression being used to discuss what will happen in January if something isn't done to avoid the $600 billion in higher taxes and other costs. If you have any suggestions feel free to drop her a note.

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Mortgage interest rates hit a new all-time low in the past week. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate of a 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 3.34 percent and the 15-year fixed-rate also fell to a new low of 2.65 percent. The group's chief economist credited the decline to rising consumer confidence and lower inflation. Of course, interest rates could be at zero and if lenders are not willing to make loans it doesn't make any difference. Fed head Ben Bernanke yesterday said "overly tight" lending standards have prevented the housing market from improving faster than the current pace.

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Nike is selling its Cole Haan line of shoes and handbags for a nifty $580 million. The company says it wants to focus on its core athletic brands including Jordan, Converse and Hurley. Nike bought Cole Haan back in 1988 for just $80 million, so it is banking a sweet profit on the deal. Nike also announced a two-for-one stock split and is increasing its dividend by 17 percent, the 11th year in a row it has upped the payout to shareholders.

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The massive 412,000-square-foot headquarters building for bankrupt Solyndra Solar is being bought for $90 million by Seagate Technologies. Solyndra, a poster boy for wasted government spending, spent $528 million of taxpayer money for the structure that included robots programmed to whistle Disney songs, showers with liquid crystal screens stating the water temperature and many other plush extras. The plant was built out to handle capacity of solar cells well above the possible orders it ever received. Also, the cost to make the cells was well above the price on the open market.

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A press release this morning from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council says it is raising its goal of attracting businesses from California to move over to the Arizona desert. Last week it launched the California 50 program targeting businesses here that might be interested in making the move. Well, they have just raised the program to the California 100. "We've heard from CEOs up and down the California coast, representing firms in the technology, medical devices, financial and life sciences industries and ranging in size from 30 to 10,000 employees," said Barry Broome of the GPEC. He also said, "Clearly, the increasingly anti-business policies coming out of California, like Proposition 30, have struck a nerve with the state’s brightest and best performing innovators." The group wants to fly CEOs over to Phoenix to tour the region and see what it has to offer. It sounds like they are coming after just about every business in San Diego County.

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I was flipping around the channels last night and come across a college football game between North Carolina and Virginia. It wasn't a great game -- although better than the NFL's Dolphins and Bills game -- but what caught my attention were the helmets worn by the Tar Heels. They definitely get the award for the most unusual logo, not to mention the shiniest silver color. The logo looks like a rip-off of the old Hang Ten clothing logo popular here on the West Coast. It's worth checking out.

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