COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Wall Street appears ready to take a breather. The financial markets have calmed down in recent trading with the major indexes seesawing in a pretty tight range. Yesterday was a good example, with the Dow Industrials losing 9 points while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were up fractionally. There hasn't been much in the way of major economic news to impact trading so most folks seem comfortable going to the sidelines ahead of the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend. The markets will be closed on Monday.

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There were few bulls or bears around on Wall Street yesterday, but there seemed to be plenty of dogs. The opening bell at the NYSE was rung by people from the Westminster Kennel Club including GCH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, the 6-year-old Affenpinscher selected as "Best in Show" at the competition in New York this week. The other dog prowling the financial markets was Clifford the Big Red Dog, the popular star of a PBS cartoon show, who turned 50 years of age. I think that works out to 350 in human years.

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Also of note today at the NYSE will be the appearance by Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, the Medal of Honor recipient who received the award from President Barack Obama earlier this week but turned down the invitation to sit with the First Lady at the State of the Union address on Tuesday. And, in Times Square this evening it will be Lynne Parshall, chief operating officer at Carlsbad-based Isis Pharmaceuticals and other executives from the company ringing the closing bell following an analysts meeting in the Big Apple.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an insider trading inquiry into activity surrounding shares of H.J. Heinz stock on Wednesday, the day before it was announced Warren Buffett and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital agreed to pay $28 billion to buy the food company. The New York Times reports there was a "suspicious spike" in trading the day before the announcement of the deal. Observers say it is not uncommon to see such SEC inquiries initiated after the merger or buyout announcement and most often no charges are initiated.

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Two reports show consumers are feeling pretty good about things right now. Bloomberg released its consumer confidence report yesterday showing people are encouraged by the improving job market and rapidly rising home prices. And, this morning the University of Michigan said its sentiment index rose in early February as people have forgotten the hoopla surrounding the fiscal cliff that drove down confidence levels in December. The UofM report said the stock market -- moving close to all-time highs -- helped boost confidence levels.

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The IRS is asking taxpayers who are expecting refunds to cool it for a little while. Evidently the agency's website has been jammed up by people clicking on the "Where's my refund" link -- more than five times a day. A press release from the IRS says, "Due to the large number of inquiries and to avoid service disruptions, the IRS strongly urges taxpayers to only check their refunds once a day. IRS systems are only updated once a day, usually overnight." I'm not sure, but when the IRS "strongly urges" something it probably would be smart to heed their advice.

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The media has been all over the Carnival Cruise Line situation with the Triumph stranded at sea because of an engine fire that shut down most operating systems. That, of course, included toilets and other facilities. The ship arrived in Mobile, Ala., late last night and people were finally able to get back to solid ground. Of course, reporters loved to exaggerate the news. CNBC anchor Becky Quick referred to the passengers as "survivors." That would imply there were some people who did not survive the adventure, which I believe was not the case.

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