COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

The Dow Industrials eked out a small, very small, gain last week to show a profit for the sixth time in the past eight weeks. The blue chip index was up 18.81 points -- 0.13 percent -- thanks to a Friday rally of 120 points, finishing right at 14K. Now comes another run at the all-time record closing high, just 164 points away. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were down slightly last week.

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Here’s an interesting factoid from Sam Stovall at S&P Capital IQ. He notes there have been 26 times since 1945 the S&P 500 has gone up in both January and February. Every time that has occurred the index has gone on to post a gain for the entire year an impressive average of 24 percent. After posting big gains in January this year the S&P 500 is now up 1.2 percent this month with just four more trading sessions remaining.

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I remind people all the time the stock market is a leading economic indicator. It doesn't wait for news to happen, it anticipates events to come. This is important in light of the event set to occur at the end of this week: sequestration. The market is trying to tell us something, either Congress and the Obama administration will come up with some agreement on spending cuts and not let the automatic cuts go into effect or it will mandate cuts so modest it won't have much impact on the economy. Regardless, the market is telling everyone to calm down, the end is not near.

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Any week that features Ben Bernanke on Capitol Hill is an interesting week. The Fed head goes before House and Senate committees the next two days. He will have to put up with political speeches by members and try to respond with reasonable answers. Interestingly, the markets usually have a positive response to what Bernanke has to say, even though he likely will attack the members for not acting on sequestration.

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There are reports this morning the chairman of Barnes & Noble is looking to put together funding to buy the retail operations of the books and music company. Leonard Riggio is the founder and largest shareholder of the company, which has already announced plans to spin off its Nook operations into a separate company. Barnes & Noble is pretty much the last bookstore chain standing after Borders caved in to online pressure from Amazon.com and other competitors. Company shares are up 10 percent in early trading today.

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Analysts at the National Association of Business Economics are betting on a big recovery in the economy in 2014. The NABE Outlook 2013 survey released this morning found the group’s economists are expecting the GDP to rise 2.0 percent for the entire year, down slightly from last year. However, they are looking for the economy to grow 2.8 percent in 2014. Sixty percent say sequestration will occur in partial form or full form at the start of March. In addition, they forecast inflation will remain flat this year and the housing market will continue to move forward before pausing in 2014.

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Once again a major sporting event reminds us how wonderful it is to live here in San Diego. The Accenture Match Play Championship played near Tucson was a weather disaster. The first round was snowed out on Thursday when an amazing blizzard moved through the desert. The next couple of days were pretty decent despite being cold. Then the final match between Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar was played in bitter cold and strong winds. Kuchar did prevail, winning more than $1 million. Overall, the quality of play was very good. I think the golfers like going one-on-one in match play. It certainly brought out the best in guys like Ian Poulter and Jason day.

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The Daytona 500 was a fun race to watch with a very exciting finish that put El Cajon's Jimmie Johnson in the winner's circle and picking up a check for more than $1.5 million. Unfortunately, the race was run in the shadow of the Nationwide race on Saturday that ended with a bad crash on the last lap with debris hitting some fans in the grandstand. Most of the injuries were minor, although a couple of people had more serious injuries. The media loves a good car crash whether it's on I-5 or, even more dramatic, at the Daytona Motor Speedway. Most auto racing fans are not there to see cars crash. If they were they would be grossly disappointed because wrecks are few and far between these days and the consequences, thanks to amazing advances in safety for the drivers and fans, are mostly minor.

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