COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

You can only imagine how the financial media would be reporting a 5.5 percent drop in the stock market. Truth is, the 5.5 percent increase in the Dow Industrials this month is almost a throwaway for most business reporters. The steady advance -- only four down days out of 16 trading sessions so far in January -- has been the best start to a new year since 1987 when the Dow was up a whopping 10.8 percent after 16 days of trading.

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The Dow was able to post a 46-point gain yesterday despite the sharp decline in Apple shares, down $63 to $453. True, Apple is not one of the 30 stocks in the industrial index but usually such a fall in a stock like Apple -- still the largest company based on its market value of $423.8 billion -- drags down the overall market. Apple did directly weigh on the S&P 500 Stock Index. It briefly topped 1,500 for the first time since Dec. 12, 2007, but could not hold the level because of Apple shares. Apple's market value has dropped a staggering $234.4 billion since hitting a high of $702 on Sept. 19.

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By the way, today is Timothy Geithner's last day as U.S. Treasury Secretary. Since the Senate has not approved the Obama administration's nominee, Jack Lew, to succeed Geithner the position will be filled temporarily by Neil Wolin, an assistant Treasurer. By the way, Geithner says he will not accept a position as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve Board after the current term for Ben Bernanke ends on Jan. 31, 2014. Of course, no one has asked Geithner to assume the post.

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The Department of Commerce reported this morning new home sales declined by 7.3 percent in December as the usual harsh winter weather locked out potential buyers across a big chunk of the country. However, the overall 2012 numbers were darned impressive. Sales totaled 367,000 units, the highest level since 2009 and the median price of a new home sold last year was $243,600, the highest since 2007. I had the chance to speak last night at a meeting of the San Diego chapter of the Building Industry Association and it was certainly impressive to see the enthusiasm of the folks in the room who have suffered through the worst recession most of them have ever experienced.

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Also speaking at the BIA event was Mark Riedy, executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at USD. He reminded the audience of the upcoming Annual Real Estate Conference on March 8 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. The opening act is worth the price of admission for the entire event. Somehow Mark has been able to bring three of the region's business giants -- Malin Burnham, Irwin Jacobs and Ernest Rady -- to sit together on a panel. Space is very limited so it would be wise to get details at www.sandiego,edu/bmcevent.

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Say good-bye to Two Buck Chuck. Well, not good-bye, just plan to pay more for a bottle of Charles Shaw wine at Trader Joe's stores. The wine was first introduced in 1999 at $1.99 a bottle, hence the term "Two Buck Chuck." Well, rising prices have forced Trader Joe's to raise the price to $2.49. I'm no wine snob and have from time to time tasted a Charles Shaw wine and I've had worse. What a lot of folks do, of course, is buy a bottle and take it home only to pour it into the bottle of a higher quality -- make that, higher priced -- wine. Most often guests can't tell the difference.

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