COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

It's back to work on Wall Street following the Presidents' Day holiday. The markets traded in a very tight range last week as the bulls and bears seem to be at a standoff. How tight was the range? Well, the Dow Industrials were down a grand total of 11 points for the five-day period, or a decline of 0.08 percent. In the past two weeks the Dow has dropped a staggering 28 points, or 0.20 percent. The most impressive thing about recent trading is the lack of sellers despite repeated warnings the market has climbed too far, too fast. And, of course, sequestration is just a few days away. Investors should be reminded the markets are fully aware of what is happening in Washington and experienced investors would say the situation has already been discounted into the price of stocks.

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Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, summed things up very nicely in his weekly Sector Watch report. He said a modest pull-back or even correction would not be out of the ordinary, "Yet still others warn of an impending bear market, either because they see signs of an emerging near-term top or they are just seeking attention." Nothing will get you on the set faster at CNBC or Fox Business than to call for a major correction in stock prices. Any analyst suggesting a big rally will be ignored by the show producers on the business networks.

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One San Diego County company has canceled its IPO while another has announced plans to go public. AutoGenomics, a genetic testing company, pulled its offering on Friday. The Vista company has tried two times to launch an IPO but backed away because of market conditions. However, Sophiris Bio, based in La Jolla, filed with the SEC on Friday to raise $75 million in an initial public offering of stock. No date has been set for the deal.

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Here’s more evidence of the financial health of the U.S. consumer. The S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices showed another decline in late payments during January. The national default rate on a basket of consumer loans fell to just 1.63 percent last month, reflecting a big decline in first mortgage defaults (1.58 percent) and credit card late payments (3.41 percent), the lowest post-recession level. "The beginning of 2013 continued the positive trend in consumer credit quality that we witnessed in 2012," said David Blitzer of S&P.

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There are several weird food items in the news this morning. Krispy Kreme has introduced a new doughnut "topped and filled with Oreo goodness." Yes, it is a “traditional chocolate cake doughnut infused with Oreo cookie pieces, topped with white icing, Oreo cookie pieces and a dollop of blended Oreo flavored Kreme with Oreo cookie pieces." Meanwhile, a press release from Domino's Pizza in London is promoting a new Domino's Hot Dog Stuffed Crust. It appears to be exactly what it says: A pizza crust with the outside rim of the crust stuffed with a ring of hot dogs. At no extra cost the dogs can be smothered in mustard before being baked in the crust.

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Speaking of mustard, the folks at Grey Poupon are bringing back a classic commercial for the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday. It has been 16 years since the ads featuring the English gentlemen in chauffeured cars aired. The gentlemen meet each other at a stop and one rolls down his window and says, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" To which the other gentleman says, "But of course," and hands across a jar of the mustard. The new commercial will have a bit of a twist at the end, but you'll have to watch the show to see it. Grey Poupon is a product from Kraft Foods.

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Being the POTUS sure has its benefits. Like spending the weekend at a posh, exclusive and expensive Florida resort and playing golf with Tiger Woods. That, of course, is how President Obama spent the last weekend. Nice.

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