COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

The race to the record on Wall Street paused yesterday. The Dow Industrials slipped 36 points but kept the index within 181 points of an all-time high, or just slightly more than 1 percent off the record. As I have mentioned in the past, this is a normal sequence of events as the markets bounce off of levels of resistance two or three times before busting through and finally moving higher. My favorite headline of the day comes from Yahoo! Finance: "Should investors lower their expectations?" And, of course, Marketwatch.com throws in the negative banner: "Nowhere to go but down for the market?"

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Warren Buffett isn't lowering his expectations. The Oracle of Omaha is teaming up with 3G Capital to buy H.J. Heinz in a deal valued at $28 billion. 3G is a Brazilian investment firm and is majority owner of Burger King, among other assets. Not only is Buffett, through his company Berkshire Hathaway, getting a great investment opportunity, he is also putting another $9 billion into a preferred stock issue paying a 9 percent dividend, pretty impressive in today's low interest rate environment. Heinz was started in 1869 by Henry J. Heinz and his first product was horseradish, not ketchup.

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The other big deal this morning is the planned merger of American Airlines and US Airways, creating the world's largest air carrier. The boards of the two companies have approved the complicated agreement but the deal is a long way from being done. The bankruptcy court overseeing the reorganization of American must sign off on the deal and the FAA must also approve the merger. This could take quite a while, possibly years.

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The government reported the number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell last week by 27,000 to 341,000, the lowest level in three months. Of course, analysts say the decline was artificially low because several states were not able to report jobless claims because of the winter storm that hit the Northeast.

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It has been nearly four years since Bernard Madoff pled guilty to running the largest investment fraud in history, stealing an estimated $65 billion from client's accounts. While he is sitting in prison for the rest of his life, regulators are working aggressively to recapture some of the missing money. Yesterday the Securities Investor Protection Corp. filed a plea in court to distribute another $505 million to victims of Madoff's scam. In total, the regulators have been able to distribute $5.4 billion "Our efforts to recover additional stolen funds are far from over, and we will continue to vigorously pursue pending cases and issues," said trustee David Sheehan.

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Phil Mickelson is already on the golf course up in Pacific Palisades for the Northern Trust tournament. Lefty is playing alongside Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley, three guys who were in a playoff at the tournament last year that was ultimately won by Haas. The event is being played at the historic Riviera Country Club.

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It was a very tough and ugly loss by the Aztecs basketball team to Colorado State last night. The game was close most of the way but it became obvious the altitude impacted the SDSU squad, who looked really bad in the final few minutes of the game. Losing to the Rams at their home court is no disgrace. They have won 27 consecutive games at home. But, the Aztecs better get their act together with the conference tournament and March Madness just a few weeks away.

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