COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Stocks are opening higher this morning as investors cast their votes on what to expect from the Fed on Thursday. Yesterday the Dow industrials drifted lower by 62 points but have moved up triple digits in early trading today. It is always fun to see stocks move up after MarketWatch.com runs a story with the headline, "Cash may be a sanctuary in this fear-ridden stock market."

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Today's key economic report is the retail sales update for August. Sales were up a modest 0.2 percent, well below expectations. Of course, the business media is screaming this is another sign of a slowing economy, right? Well, the number was influenced by the sharp drop last month in gasoline prices. The truth is people were buying just as much gas, maybe even more, but paying less. Let's say it cost you $50 to fill your tank in July but, thanks to falling gas prices, it only cost you $40 to fill up. It would be correct to say your spending declined by 20 percent but not because you were cutting back, just because you were getting more for your money. By the way, it is safe to assume most consumers spent that extra 10 bucks somewhere else rather than putting it in a savings account.

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One place where people are aggressively spending money is on iPhones. Apple is reporting it expects record sales numbers, somewhere around 10 million units, when they release the latest version of the iPhone 6S Plus on Sept. 25. This is interesting because it is not a new phone, just a modified version of the phone introduced last year. Apple shares have been bouncing back lately, up a bit this morning after moving up in the three previous sessions.

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Americans keep paying their bills on time. The S&P/Experian consumer default indices -- which measure payments on first and second mortgage loans, bank cards and auto loans -- ticked up slightly in August to a default rate of just 0.96 percent. A year ago at this time the rate was 1.03 percent.

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Temperatures are holding near 90 degrees, hardly winter weather, yet a lot of people are busy doing their Christmas shopping. According to a survey from CreditCards.com, about 32 million people admit they are already well into the holiday shopping. And, 4.6 million people say they have already finished their holiday shopping. More and more retailers are offering discounts, regardless of the time of the year, and people are stocking up on items they plan to gift at Christmas time. More and more popular items are disappearing from shelves as the holidays draw near. Why wait?

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