COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

It looks like investors did their holiday shopping on Monday -- when the Dow Industrials jumped more than 200 points -- and have decided to take the rest of the week off. The markets yesterday were little changed, with the Dow dropping seven points as a result of a big drop in shares of Hewlett-Packard. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were pretty much unchanged on the day. Don't expect much movement today or on Friday.

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Santa Claus was on hand to ring the opening bell at the NYSE today to promote the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 3 million people line the parade route in the Big Apple each year -- and this is the 86th year Macy's has put on the event. Also, ringing the closing bell today will be folks from the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to kick off the 65th annual campaign, which last year collected more than 16 million toys that were distributed to 7.2 million less fortunate children.

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Fed head Ben Bernanke chimed in on the fiscal cliff yesterday in a speech to the New York Economic Club. In his comments he said the pending end to a number of tax cuts will either lead to a financial crisis or trigger a powerful expansion in the economy in 2013. "While the details of whatever agreement is reached to resolve the fiscal cliff are important, the economic confidence of both market participants and the general public likely will also be influenced by the extent to which our political system proves able to deliver a reasonable solution with a minimum of uncertainty and delay," said Bernanke.

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Speaking of the fiscal cliff, economist Jim Grant, a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve, said the frenzy over the cliff is simply the 2013 version of Y2K. It is hard to believe it was a dozen years ago the world was led to believe we were on the brink of a massive technology crisis as we shifted from years beginning with 19 to the start of 2000. The buzz was mostly that computers would be in a state of flux not knowing how to read dated programs. I remember staying up on New Year's Eve to watch it and see if the television screen was going to go blank and all communications systems would shut down. Of course, nothing happened. I tend to agree with Grant that the fiscal cliff is more a media event than an economic crisis.

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How busy will stores be this weekend? The traditional start to the holiday shopping season gets off to an early start with many stores opening on Thanksgiving Day evening and continuing with the Black Friday events. According to a report from the Consumer Electronics Association, 60 percent of U.S. adults plan to shop at some time between tomorrow and Cyber Monday. It says 57 percent of people plan to purchase at least one gift this weekend, a 10 percent increase from last year. However, Consumer Reports -- the economic version of the Grinch -- says 68 percent of people will skip shopping on Black Friday. Just a reminder: Americans will spend $568 billion during the holidays this year, according to a report from the National Retail Federation.

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By the way, today is the third busiest day of the year for pizza deliveries. People are getting their Thanksgiving meal prepared and it makes sense to go ahead and order up a pie for dinner tonight. That is why Domino's Pizza is hiring as many as 25,000 extra workers between now and New Year's Day to handle the rush today and around the other holiday events.

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The media seems to love beating up on the evil empires they perceive to be big businesses. Just watch the attacks this weekend on Target and Wal-Mart. Of course, little attention is given to large companies -- large employers -- who year after year do special things for their workers. One of my favorites is Hormal Foods. This morning the company announced its annual profit-sharing event, distributing $16.9 million to eligible hourly and salaried employees. No, this isn't money that is given to the top executives and trickles down to regular workers. It is equally distributed from the top executive to the newest eligible employee. Hormel has used Thanksgiving Eve as the opportunity to hand out the profit sharing since 1938 when founder Jay C. Hormel rewarded his workers for their efforts. Hormel has nearly 20,000 employees.

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Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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