COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Stocks seem to be looking for some direction. After a strong opening week to 2013 -- up 497 points on the Dow Industrials in just four days of trading -- the markets have seesawed this week. Granted, there has been little in the way of economic news to move the markets and the fourth-quarter earnings reports are just starting to be released. That will all change next week.

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The fact that the "fiscal cliff" turned out to be an embarrassing non-event seemed to have pulled a lot of investors off the sidelines. A report this morning showed $18.3 billion was invested in stock mutual funds during the first week of 2013, the fourth highest inflow of funds in history and the biggest infusion of investor cash in one week since January 1992. Some, of course, suggest massive buying by individual investors is a negative indicator. The markets tend to do best when most people are afraid to own stocks.

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By the way, in the process of cleaning up my mountains of paper left over from 2012, I came across an interesting forecast for the year just completed. None other than Morgan Stanley, on Jan. 3, 2012, suggested the S&P 500 would end the year at 1,167, down 7 percent. Oops. Turns out the index closed at 1,426, up about 14 percent. Another gem of a prediction came from perma-bear Harry Dent, who said the S&P 500 would suffer a 20 percent correction in May of last year. The reason for the drop would be the economic woes in Spain. Better luck next time, Harry.

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Have you noticed how Greece, Spain and the rest of Europe have dropped off the radar screen? Last year at this time the headlines were dominated by reports of the coming collapse of the EU and "confusion" here in the U.S. economy.

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Since I seem to be venting this morning, let me throw this one in. The headline on the home page of MarketWatch.com screams "Here's who we can blame if U.S. stocks plummet 42 percent." Turns out Gary Shilling, another perma-bear, says the fault will be the folks in Washington. Shilling, of course, is calling for a big correction, as he does every year. Despite his terrible track record, the media folks love the guy as much as they do Dent.

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Here are two jobs reports of note: American Express says it will cut its payroll by 8.5 percent, or about 5,400 jobs. It is all about cutting costs. However, Ford Motor says it will be hiring 2,200 salaried workers in 2013, as the automaker increases production.

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Speaking of jobs, a new report from the Department of Labor shows the long-term unemployed -- people out of work more than six months -- now stands at 39.1 percent of all job seekers at the end of 2012. It marks the first time the number has dropped below 40 percent in more than three years. The Labor Department says there are 4.8 million people who have been out of work for more than six months, down from the peak of 6.5 million in 2010.

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Mark your calendar: National Pancake Day is just around the corner on Feb. 5. That's the day IHOP offers a complimentary short stack of pancakes to all comers. IHOP would, of course, appreciate a donation to the local Children's Miracle Network hospital. The target this year is to collect $3 million to help suffering kids and their families.

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It should be a good weekend for sports. The NFL playoffs are in full swing, the Aztecs play Saturday night, and the PGA golf tour is prime time because the guys are playing in Hawaii. The only thing missing is NASCAR. The first race of the season is not until Feb. 24 with the running of the Daytona 500. I love it that the left-turn league starts the season with its Super Bowl.

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