COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

The national drama known as the "Fiscal Cliff" is drawing closer and closer. It appears the media is much more worried about the event than investors, who are pretty much giving the whole thing a giant yawn. While there are few stock buyers in evidence these days, there is also no stampede to sell before the arrival of the New Year and the anticipated increase in taxes on capital gains and dividends. It is looking like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be the hero on this thing. He is expected to sign an authorization to extend the debt ceiling and provide extra time for the new Congress to address these issues. That will get Obama and Congress off the hook for a last-minute deal.

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No matter what happens, 2012 will go into the books as a darned good year for investors, at least those who were willing to stay the course and not swallow the bait of doom and gloom.

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Uncertainty about the economy over the past four years has resulted in average investors missing out on an estimated $200 billion in stock market gains. Using a rather complicated formula, Morningstar has suggested people moved away from the stock market during the depths of the recession in 2008 and never returned. As a result, they missed a rally that has seen the S&P 500 stock index climb nearly 100 percent since March 2009. The moral to the story is it is always easy to get out of the stock market -- the hard part is knowing when to get back in. Legendary investor John Bogle, the father of index investing, once offered this sage advice in times of turmoil: "Don't do something, just stand there."

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Did you know that the buying of a gift card as a holiday present is not considered a retail purchase? Well, you're not alone. Most of the national media is not aware of that fact either. A gift card is only calculated as a sale when the card is actually used. It is estimated nearly $30 billion in cards were purchased this year as holiday gifts. So, the constant reports this week that holiday sales have been very disappointing fail to consider the big post-Christmas retail rush fueled by gift cards burning a hole in consumers' pockets. My family knows to give me gift cards to Barnes & Noble and I was quick to hit the local store yesterday to use the cards. I was not alone. By the time things are completely added up this will go into the books as one of the best holiday shopping seasons ever. At least that was the opinion of the CEO at Toys "R" Us, who probably knows a bit more than most reporters, economists and analysts who likely never set foot in a mall this year.

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The Conference Board is out with its latest reading on consumer confidence and there is absolute glee on the news that the mood has darkened. "The sudden turnaround in expectations was most likely caused by uncertainty surrounding the oncoming fiscal cliff," said spokesperson Lynn Franco in reporting the index dropped to a four-month low. I still say 75 percent of the people out there would be hard pressed to explain the fiscal cliff. Interestingly, fewer people surveyed actually found jobs "hard to get."

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Report after report shows the housing market picking up momentum heading into 2013. Today it is the Commerce Department report showing new home sales rose 4.4 percent in November to the highest level since April 2010. Tomorrow we get the report on existing home sales last month and it should be another good one.

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I asked Bruce Binkowski, executive director of tonight's Holiday Bowl, about the color of the uniform the UCLA Bruins will wear in the game against Baylor. I was actually impressed by the dark blue outfits and helmets they wore in the game against USC earlier this year. Bruce said there has been no announcement and I suggested, since the game is being played in Qualcomm Stadium, it might be a good idea to leave the powder blue jerseys back in Westwood.

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