COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Four for four. The Dow Industrials have now been up for four consecutive sessions and seven of the past nine. Granted, the gains have been modest, including yesterday's 15-point gain, but a gain is a gain. Considering the pending arrival of the "F.C." -- just 20 days away -- you have to admire the moxie of investors willing to put money in the market with so much uncertainty out there. Stocks are higher at the start today as the two-day meeting of the Bernanke Bunch gets under way.

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America's small businesses are not in a very good mood. The National Federation of Independent Business released its November confidence survey and it reports a "plunge" in the way companies feel about economic and political conditions. "Nearly half of owners are now certain things will be worse next year than they are now. Washington does not have the needs of small business in mind," said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at NFIB.

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A bit more encouraging is the latest reading on employment for the San Diego region from Manpower. According to the report released this morning, 15 percent of local companies plan to increase hiring in the first quarter of 2013 while only 9 percent will cut staff. That works out to a net employment outlook of 6 percent, up from 2 percent in the report issued three months ago. A year ago at this time the net employment outlook for the first quarter of 2012 was just 1 percent.

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Another report this morning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out there were 3.7 million job openings at the end of October, up from 3.55 million jobs a month earlier. That works out to one job for every 3.3 unemployed persons. The most notable part of the report was the increase in the number of jobs available in the construction sector, where activity has clearly been rebounding. By the way, the report is officially known as the Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey or, as they like to call it, JOLTS.

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The International Council of Shopping Centers says a slight drop in holiday spending in the past week is typical for this point in the season. "Consumers continue to hold true to past holiday shopping patterns as they once again held back in their holiday shopping in preparation of the last minute promotions and sales retailers have planned for the final weeks," according to the report from ICSC. Stakes declined 0.7 percent in the week ending Dec. 8. If there was a slowdown in shopping around San Diego in the past week it wasn't happening anywhere I went.

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More companies are continuing to move up the payment of dividends originally set to be paid early next year. Paychex, the payroll and benefits services company, said it will pay dividends to shareholders on Dec. 28 that were originally scheduled to be paid in February and May 2013. "We do expect taxes on dividends to increase, and we are in a position to accelerate dividend payments, so taking this step is another reflection of our commitment to delivering shareholder value," said CEO Martin Mucci.

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Here we go again. It is probably safe to go ahead and plan something to do this coming Sunday afternoon. Looks pretty likely the game between the Chargers and Carolina Panthers will be blacked out in San Diego unless 13,000 fans come forward and buy tickets. Pretty slim chance that's going to happen.

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