COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

All of a sudden volatility has returned to the stock market. The last three trading sessions have seen big swings in stock prices, mostly to the upside. On Friday the Dow Industrials capped off a big week by gaining 149 points after the positive employment report for January. However, when traders returned from the weekend they did some profit taking that pushed the Dow down 130 points. It looked like we were going to have another triple-digit day yesterday as investors were encouraged by solid quarterly earnings reports, but finished the day with a gain of 99 points. Early trading today has the major indexes trading lower.

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The new hot item for Wall Street bears is to scare investors by telling them insiders are selling their stock. "Warning flags fly as insider selling suggests bear shift," screams the giant headline at MarketWatch.com. Does that mean you should sell, too? It depends on your time horizon and what the other options are for your investment dollars if you pull out of the market. The best long-term investors will tell you to let your winners run and sell your losers, not the other way around.

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Shares of Walt Disney are trading at an all-time high this morning after reporting its fourth-quarter results after the close last night. Theme park revenues were up 7.0 percent in the period as people were willing to open their wallets and spend a small fortune to visit the Magic Kingdom. The company also reported plans to develop the "Star Wars" franchise. Disney bought Lucas Films last year for $4 billion and will begin production of a new trilogy based on characters from previous "Star Wars" films. The first feature, directed by J.J. Abrams, is expected in 2015.

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Also getting a big bump from its quarterly report is Chipotle Mexican Grill. The company said despite higher food prices it was able to report an increase in sales and profits. It opened 183 new restaurants in 2012, bringing the total to 1,410 and expects to open another 180 shops this year. Chipotle has been a big success ever since it was spun off by McDonald's in 2006. The stock had soared to more than $440 a share in April of last year but went into a freefall after that, hitting $236 in October. It has been building back since then and is moving this morning at $316.

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It turns out there is nothing like a good health scare to make those cash registers ring. Reports from several companies show the recent flu fears were big profit generators. Walgreen said it administered 6.9 million flu shots during the past two months, up from 5.5 million a year ago. CVS Caremark reported this morning pharmacy sales were up 17.4 percent in the past quarter and even Clorox said sales of disinfectant products pushed up their bottom line over the past few months.

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This comes as no surprise to folks here in San Diego County, but a report from the National Beer Wholesalers Association says beer is big business. The report shows the distribution industry directly employs more than 345,000 nationwide and 32,000 in California. These companies contribute $54 billion to the nation's economy, $5.4 billion in California. "The beer distribution sector is a hidden gem that has been tremendously undervalued in previous economic reports," said Dr. Bill Latham of the University of Delaware, who conducted the research.

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It's that time of the year to ask people, "What are you going to do with your tax refund?" According to TD Ameritrade, 47 percent of the people surveyed said they will save the money they get back from the IRS and 44 percent will use it to pay off existing debt. The truth, of course, is they will spend the money. People answer these questions the way they think they should, not the way they really will use the refund. It's all about being politically correct. Only 15 percent were honest and said they will spend the refund -- which will average about $3,000 this year -- on discretionary items.

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