COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Stocks finally had a down day yesterday. After moving up for five consecutive sessions, the Dow Industrials dipped 23 points in Wednesday trading. Most, if not all, of the decline was the result of a drop in shares of Boeing, which fell about 3.4 percent. The FAA has now grounded all of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners as airlines try to get to the bottom of a series of problems with batteries and fuel leaks that are causing flights to be interrupted. In early trading today the markets are back to their winning ways on a couple of very good economic reports.

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Economists were surprised, actually shocked, by a report showing initial claims for jobless benefits plunged in the past week by 37,000 to 335,000, the lowest level since January 2008. In reality, the report shows the lack of skills by highly compensated economists and analysts. A survey by MarketWatch.com found the "experts" were looking for the number to come in at 368,000. Gee, they only missed by 33,000. It seems the big drop was the result of what the Labor Department calls a "seasonal adjustment." My question is why didn't these experts know the adjustment was going to occur? That is their job and yet they once again seemed to be out to lunch.

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As good as the jobless claims report was, the report on new home construction activity was even better. The Department of Commerce said housing starts in December rose by 12.1 percent to an annualized rate of 954,000, the highest level since June 2008. FYI, the economists and analysts weren't anywhere close on this report, either. The important part of the sharp increase in housing starts is the fact it created thousands of construction jobs, one of the key missing elements in the economic recovery. By the way, the bulk of the new construction is multifamily housing, up 20.3 percent while single-family construction activity rose by just 8.1 percent. In addition, building permits issued in December also rose to the highest level since July 2008.

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Speaking of real estate, a new report from CoreLogic finds 1.4 million homeowners with mortgages returned to positive equity during the first nine months of 2012. "As we look ahead to 2013, we expect to see more borrowers escape the negative equity trap, which will be a strong positive for the housing market specifically and the broader economy generally," said Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic CEO.

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Shares of K Swiss are up sharply this morning following news the company is being bought by E. Land World, a South Korean company owning more than 10,000 retail outlets worldwide that sell more than 200 branded sports apparel products. The deal is valued at $170 million, small potatoes in today's world of billion-dollar deals.

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Football versus baseball. It is one of the great debates in America and, according to a new Harris Poll, football continues to be the country's favorite sport, but the margin is narrowing. The survey found 34 percent of sports fans say football is their favorite sport compared to 16 percent who opted for baseball. The spread, however, has narrowed from 2011 when 36 percent leaned toward football and just 13 percent preferred baseball. FYI, college football, auto racing and men's pro basketball round out the top five sports. Sports that received no votes as fan favorites include women's pro basketball, women's soccer, women's college basketball, and women's golf. Bowling ranked higher than any of those sports.

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