Commentary

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 and website. He has introduced video and audio into the editorial products and is the public face of the company at many community events. George regularly chairs industry roundtables and conducts video interviews of participants for use on the San Diego Source. He writes two daily columns, "Money in the Morning" and a daily stock market wrap-up.

George, a long time resident of North County, lives in Vista with his wife Terry.

From the Executive Editor

What a difference a month makes. Remember the sharp decline in stock prices in January when the major indexes started the year with a decline of about 3.5 percent? Well, the bulls were back in February with the Dow industrials gaining 5.6 percent and the S&P 500 up 5.5 percent, its best month since October 2011. But the big winner was the Nasdaq composite, up a staggering 7.1 percent and just a few points away from 5,000, a level last seen in March 2000.

Putting the wraps on February. Hard to believe, huh? The first two months of 2015 are just about behind us and it truly has been a tale of two months. January saw the major indexes fall about 3.5 percent, only to see things flip in February, making up all of the declines in the previous month. The most interesting story right now is the climb of the Nasdaq toward its record highs set in March 15 years ago during the peak of the dot-com bubble. The tech-heavy index is just about 1 percent away from topping the 5,100 mark. It fell all the way to 1,377 by February 2009, at the depths of the Great Recession. In hindsight, what a great buying opportunity that really was.

A proposal released last week by President Barack Obama takes aim at the fees charged on a variety of retirement plans and the way services are provided to millions of retirement-oriented investors.

Another record on Wall Street. Sure, it wasn't much but the 15-point gain yesterday in the Dow industrials was enough to take the blue chip index to its third record close in the past four sessions. The Dow keeps building momentum following the current break above the 18K mark. The Nasdaq index was down slightly yesterday, snapping a 10-session winning streak. It was the first down day since Feb. 9 and has been down only in four sessions so far this month.

Looking back at 18K. The Dow industrials in the past three months have tried repeatedly to crash through the 18,000 mark, only to fall back when it is breached. This is not at all unusual as individual stocks and indexes often meet resistance at certain monument levels. Well, the Dow jumped 92 points yesterday to a new all-time high and is starting to put some distance between its current level, 18,209, and the 18K mark. A slight drop at the start today could be a good omen for future gains.

Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, announced last week that it is raising its quarterly dividend from 64 cents to 70 cents a share.

Stocks were little changed yesterday after the Dow industrials and S&P 500 closed at record highs Friday. The Dow did drop 23 points, or 0.1 percent, a rounding error. Where things head today will depend on the reaction to the comments of Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, in her comments before a Senate committee. As always, there is great anticipation when the Fed head speaks on Capitol Hill but rarely does the testimony result in any actionable news.

You probably missed the news Friday, but the Dow industrials and S&P 500 index closed at all-time highs. For some reason, this news was ignored by most of the business media -- it was buried in the Wall Street Journal and nowhere to be found at MarketWatch.com. The 155-point rally in the Dow was enough to salvage the entire week, making it three weeks in a row the blue chip index has posted a gain. So, following four losing weeks in a row in January, the markets have rallied every week so far in February.

What will be the impact on stock prices if the Chargers join with the Raiders at a new stadium in the Los Angeles area? Probably none, because such an unholy union could be an early sign the world is coming to an end. No doubt, just about everybody in San Diego -- with the exception of people named Spanos and Fabiani -- was caught by surprise last night when word got out about the joint effort in Carson to build a new stadium just off Interstate 405 and convenient for all of Southern California. Of course, there is a long way to go on any deal but feelings have been hurt and big egos are involved.

The announcement from Wal-Mart saying it is raising the wages of about 500,000 workers to $9 an hour — a move that will cost the company $1 billion a year — could be a defining moment for the nation's economy and a wake-up call to the Federal Reserve.

Thanks, but no thanks. The European Union – Germany, in particular -- is rejecting Greece's request for a six-month loan extension agreement, saying the request is not "a substantial proposal" for a solution. Greek leaders said they will not accept austerity steps required under the bailout program. How this all works out will be interesting to follow. It looks like Greece is doing everything possible to get booted out of the EU.

Did you miss all the reports yesterday celebrating the news that the S&P 500 index closed for the first time ever above 2,100 and hit a record-closing high? Probably not, because it was widely ignored by most of the business media, and when it was mentioned it was just an, "Oh, by the way." My friends at MarketWatch.com decided to lead the market report today with a headline saying, "Seven charts suggest the rising stock market may be wrong." I'll tell you what’s wrong: All the people who have missed the six-year stock market rally because the "charts" told them to sell, sell, sell.

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