Commentary

From the Executive Editor

By George Chamberlin

Money in the Morning

Folks around San Diego County seem to be more confident about the economy than people in Seattle. At least that was the result of a casual survey conducted yesterday by Gary Zimmerman, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Zimmerman was the speaker at the "State of the Economy" presentation sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. He had just delivered a similar speech in Seattle on Wednesday and asked the people there if they were worried about the economy. A majority of hands rose in response. In Escondido, however, only a few people seemed to be fretting about current conditions. And, responding to another question, the people in the Northwest were also more concerned about inflation than Escondidoians. Must be all the rain that makes them sour up there.

Stocks finish mixed as investors struggle to look past profit news

Stock prices were mixed again Friday. Investors continued to worry about technology shares and rising interest rates.

Money in the Morning

The bidding war between several private equity firms to buy Equity Office Properties is really heating up. The current offer of more than $37 billion comes from a group headed by Vornardo Realty Trust and tops an earlier offer from the Blackstone Group. EOP is the largest office real estate trust with more than 600 properties, including 10 in San Diego. Founder Sam Zell will be in San Diego on Jan. 30 to speak at the 11th Annual Real Estate Conference sponsored by USD's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. Zell is always opinionated and his comments should be especially timely.

Stocks fall on uncertainty over interest rates after strong economic data

Cautious comments by the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and weakness in the shares of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) led stock prices lower on Thursday. Even another drop in oil prices couldn't override investor concerns.

Money in the Morning

Inflation at the wholesale level rose more than expected in December. The Labor Department reported the Producer Price Index rose 0.9 percent last month and the core rate - minus food and energy - was up 0.2 percent. Energy prices rose 2.5 percent and gasoline prices were up 7.5 percent. Food prices added 1.7 percent, the largest increase in three years. It's safe to assume that energy prices in January will be down sharply and that food prices - pushed up by damage done to crops this week - will be higher.

Stocks lower after larger than expected PPI rekindles inflation worries

Stock prices drifted lower Wednesday as investors digested several conflicting reports on the U.S. economy.

Money in the Morning

Lots of activity this morning in the restaurant industry. Landy's Restaurants - which operates a number of chains including the Chart House and Rainforest Cafes - has made an offer to purchase the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, an upscale steakhouse with restaurants in cities such as New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans. It's just my opinion, but it doesn't get much better than Smith & Wollensky's when you want a great steak dinner.

The Dow Jones industrials hit 3rd consecutive record close, broader indexes mixed

Stock prices were mixed Tuesday. However, the Dow Jones industrial average was able to post its third consecutive record close.

Money in the Morning

No trading on Wall Street today. The financial markets are closed in observance of Martin Luther King Day. Interestingly, it is the third Monday in the past four weeks that the markets have been closed. Trading was also stopped on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, both of which fell on a Monday.

Stocks close higher as investors weigh profit warnings, retail sales data

Stock prices finished the first full week of 2007 with solid gains and a new record high for the Dow industrials. Investors were cheered by strong retail sales and lower oil prices.

Money in the Morning

Today is National Tax Advice Day at H&R Block. According to the IRS, taxpayers overlook an estimated $1 billion a year in missed credits and deductions. About 65 percent of taxpayers surveyed aren't aware of changes in the law that could save them even more money this year. Perhaps the biggest mistake workers make is having too much money withheld from their paychecks. About 75 percent of all taxpayers received refunds last year that averaged $2,400. By adjusting your withholdings you can take home more pay or use the extra amount to fund a retirement plan. The company has launched www.nationaltaxadvice.com to provide free information and services to taxpayers.

Money in the Morning

Frank Mercardante may soon be getting new business cards. The local banker led the growth of Southwest Community Bank from its start in San Diego to a large regional business lender. Last June, Southwest was bought by Placer Sierra Bank and Mercardante took over the CEO job at the Sacramento-based holding company. This morning it was announced that Placer has agreed to be bought by Wells Fargo in a deal valued at $645 million. The transaction is expected to close by the middle of the year.

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George Chamberlin

GEORGE CHAMBERLIN has been associated with The Daily Transcript at SDDT.com since 1998 and became Executive Editor in 2006. He is responsible for the development of editorial strategies for the newspaper ...

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