COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

After two consecutive sessions where the Dow Industrials gained nearly a collective 500 points, a wee bit of profit taking stepped in Thursday. The Dow dipped 21 points after a report from the Fed suggested the end of easing may arrive sooner than expected. Actually, the markets were trading higher through most of the day until the Fed released the minutes of the December meeting showing Chairman Bernanke was getting some resistance from other members on extending the zero interest rate policy into 2015 or beyond. The minutes suggest the aggressive bond buying program -- QE3 -- could wrap up at the end of this year or early 2014. In the past such suggestions have really rattled the market but yesterday's response was actually rather muted.

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Worth noting, yesterday the Dow Jones transportation index closed at an all-time high. Long-time market observers know the transportation index is a leading indicator for the overall market. As we go to work this morning the Dow Industrials are just 5.5 percent away from the record high set back on Oct. 9, 2007.

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This morning's employment report for December was pretty bland. The Labor Department said payrolls rose by 155,000, in line with expectations, and the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent. How boring is this report? Well, over the past 24 months the economy has added an average of 153,000 jobs. And for all of 2012 payrolls rose by 1.84 million jobs, exactly the same as the previous year. The good news in the report was an 30,000 increase in construction jobs, the most in 15 months.

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Much to the surprise -- and disappointment -- of the experts, gurus and analysts who have warned holiday shopping had run out of steam heading toward Christmas, retail sales in December were much, much better than expected. According to Retail Metrics, sales last month rose 4.8 percent, a huge increase. It came despite Hurricane Sandy and, of course, the angst around the fiscal cliff. Fortunately, most consumers ignored the noise and went out shopping. The suggestion by experts that sales were slow once again points out most of these people never step foot in a mall or shopping center.

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Also, online holiday shopping rose in 2012 by 14 percent to $42.3 billion, according to ComScore.

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By the way, not only are people busy shopping, they are also doing a great job of paying their bills on time. The American Bankers Association reported yesterday consumer delinquencies in the third quarter declined with bank card late payments falling to an 18-year low of just 2.75 percent. The 15-year average delinquency rate of credit cards is 3.89 percent. "The conservative approach consumers have taken to credit over the last several years has allowed them to better manage their debt and better position themselves for the future," said ABA chief economist James Chessen.

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Alabama and Notre Dame are going to have to put on quite a show Monday night in the BCS championship game to prove one of them deserve the top ranking in college football. Last night's powerful win by the Oregon Ducks over Kansas State leads many people to think they deserve the top ranking.

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You heard it here first. Sources tell me it is almost 100 percent certain Tiger Woods will be playing in the Farmers Insurance Open later this month at Torrey Pines. The field is already impressive with local Favorites Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman, Scott Piercy, Rickie Fowler and others scheduled to play. No word if Lee Westwood will be on hand. The tournament starts on Jan. 24 with the pro-am events getting under way on Jan. 21.

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