COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Despite repeated efforts to scare off investors, the markets moved mostly higher on Friday. The S&P 500 closed at its highest level since November 2007, capping off another profitable week. However, the Dow Industrials slipped a whole 17 points -- for the entire week -- and snapped a five-week winning streak. That puts the blue chip index up 6.8 percent so far in 2013 and just 1.2 percent away from its all-time high. That prompted some analysts to write reports like, "Is this the death knell for the bull market?," and, "Is the economy much worse than the data shows?"

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The main reason for most of the bearishness out there is the aggressive return of the individual investor to the stock market. In the past, a rush by retail customers into the market through individual stocks or mutual funds has often indicated a near-term top in the market. Yet, on some occasions it has simply suggested individuals are smarter than the experts. We'll see how it works out this time. It still seems to me most people I talk to are still scared silly of the stock market.

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Analysts seem to also be concerned about insider selling by corporate executives. Those fears are being stoked this morning by a report that Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, is selling more than 3.2 million shares of his stock worth about $2.5 billion, half of his ownership in Google. No explanation is being offered for the action.

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Of course, there is always the lunar thing. A study of the Chinese Lunar calendar finds that since 1900 the S&P 500 posted its only average calendar year decline during the Year of the Snake, falling 3.8 percent on average, which was the worst price performance of all 12 years. Since this is the Year of the Snake, S&P says there might be reason to get hiss-terical. Another factoid: since 1900 the market has never fallen in price during the years ending in "5." So there's that to look forward to.

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Keep an eye on this Wednesday's report on retail sales. There is ample evidence to show consumers remained very busy in January, taking advantage of after-Christmas sales and using those gift cards they received over the holidays. A report issued last week by the International Council of Shopping Centers finds total operating income of all U.S. shopping centers rose 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, while operating expenses were up just 2.4 percent.

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Rumors are circulating that Apple is ready to introduce an iWatch. Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times say the company is in talks with its Chinese manufacturing partners to come up with a computer-on-a-wrist project. The reaction by people online is pretty much as expected, prompting one person to say, "The new generations don't wear watches, they are so old school. What's next, an iCalculator?"

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Ford wants to give its dealerships a facelift. Reports over the weekend said the parent company is willing to match up to $750,000 for each of its dealers willing to spend money to make showrooms more attractive and technology savvy. Ford has more than 3,100 dealerships in the United States, so this would be a rather hefty commitment by the company.

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There is little doubt that Brandt Snedeker is the hottest golfer on the tour right now. Like Phil Mickelson in the previous week, Snedeker went wire-to-wire, winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National tournament over the weekend in absolutely beautiful weather. Mickelson couldn't put it together at Pebble, finishing close to the bottom of the field and 18 strokes behind the winner. Speaking of bottoms, Lefty took a nasty fall on Saturday when he tried to walk down a slick beach cliff to retrieve an errant shot along the coast. The camera, of course, caught the entire thing and was repeatedly aired throughout the broadcast on NBC. For all the Lee Westwood fans out there, the Brit's two competitive rounds at the start of the tournament were followed by two disappointing rounds that put him 16 strokes behind Snedeker. That, of course, made Westwood the favorite for this week’s event in Los Angeles -- at least with the members of the golf media.

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