COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Happy New Year! Well, at least the first day of trading is off to a roaring start, with the major indexes posting huge gains in response to the heroics back in Washington last night. It wasn't pretty but a deal was reached to address some of the economic situation. Actually, we traded the "fiscal cliff" for the "fiscal canyon." What Congress and the Obama administration accomplished was to put a Band-Aid on the economic wounds and extend some even more important issues for two months. If you thought this was fun, just wait until the debate begins on raising the debt ceiling.

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Regardless, the Dow Industrials were up more than 200 points in the first few minutes of trading today and the trick will be to see if it sticks. We can now say 2012 was another great year for investors, at least the ones who stayed the course and didn't pull out in fear of the cliff, election or any other number of issues. The big winner was the Nasdaq, up 16 percent, followed by the S&P 500 gaining 13.4 percent, and the Dow rose 7.3 percent. The market has now been up four consecutive years and six of the last seven years.

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Here's a bit of a shocker: The best performing Dow stock in 2012 was Bank of America, gaining 108 percent. It began the year at $5.56 and ended at $11.60. Who knew? FYI, Hewlett-Packard was the worst performing Dow stock, down 44.8 percent.

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Of course, it hasn't taken very long for the naysayers to speak up. The headline in the "Ahead of the tape" column in the Wall Street Journal said, "Why 2013 may be another 1973 for stocks," suggesting an early rally with a big crash afterwards. And, of course, the crybabies at Marketwatch.com bemoaned, "Santa Claus's failure to visit Wall Street," suggesting December gains were below average. You have to pity these people who walk around all year with a big cloud over their heads. Those who have ignored the noise over the past four years are smiling because their portfolios have gone up more than 100 percent.

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It didn't take very long to get the first deal of 2013. Avis Budget announced this morning it will pay $500 million -- in cash -- to purchase Zipcar, the car-sharing service with offices here in San Diego. A Fox Business reporter this morning made an interesting comment about Zipcar drivers. Since these are people who do not own a car themselves but rather share a vehicle, they turn out to be very bad drivers. He said the worst place to be on a New York street was behind a Zipcar -- and that's saying a lot. Zipcar is another one of those new culture stocks that people couldn't wait to buy and then tumbled. It went public in April 2011 at $18 and immediately spiked to more than $29. Of course, it plunged from there, falling to $6 two months ago, making it a logical buyout candidate. The shares are up to $12 this morning on the takeover news. The lawyers are lining up to bring a class-action suit against the company and its directors.

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Speaking of cars, AAA says the average price of gasoline in 2012 rose to $3.60 a gallon, an all-time high, breaking the previous record last year of $3.51. Oil prices, however, were down 7 percent despite finishing the year at $91.82 a barrel. Gold gained 7 percent in 2012, closing out the year at $1,675 an ounce.

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There have been lots of comments the past few days about Norv Turner being fired by the Chargers. Some think the guy should be sainted, other wish he had never been here as a head coach. This factoid from Wikipedia kind of sums it up for me: "Turner has coached the most games in NFL history among head coaches with an overall losing record." I hope he is an avid golfer or likes to travel because he will collect his $2 million-plus salary in 2013 without having to do a day's work. I'm sure he is a very nice guy and hopefully will get a new job somewhere as an offensive coordinator.

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