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George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

It's been 497 steps forward, 51 steps back. That's the story for the Dow Industrials so far in 2013. Last week saw the blue chip index welcome in the New Year with a cliff-inspired rally of 497 points. When investors returned from the weekend, they did a bit of selling yesterday, pushing the Dow down by just 51 points, hardly a serious bout of profit taking. There's no doubt people are waiting for the start of earnings season, which starts tonight after the close of trading when Alcoa releases its financial results for the last three months of 2012. Most analysts are expecting fourth-quarter results will disappoint, but history suggests the reports will likely beat expectations.

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Even with four consecutive years of rising stock prices there are still many investors out there who are afraid of the stock market. However, Sam Eisenstadt is not one of them. He has been around the stock market for more than 60 years and is suggesting 2013 will be a winner, with the S&P 500 Stock Index rising from its current level of 1,450 to 1,525 by the end of June -- less than six months from now. Eisenstadt spent six decades at Value Line and earned a reputation of being a conservative analyst. Even though he is now retired, he continues to watch and forecast the markets.

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Holiday hiring rose to the highest level since 2006 this past season as retailers and others took on an estimated 728,300 holiday workers, up more than 10 percent compared to 2011. "An early Thanksgiving, which meant earlier Black Friday sales, may have contributed to an earlier hiring surge," said analyst John Challenger, who also noted many retailers were open on Thanksgiving Day, raising the need for extra workers.

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If you live in an apartment you probably already know this, but rents are on the rise as vacancies decline. A new report from Reis, a real estate research firm, finds monthly apartment rent rose by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year to $1,048 a month, up 3.8 percent from a year earlier. That represents the biggest year-over-year increase since 2007. Realtors suggest the tight conditions in the rental market should finally get some households to look toward ownership because of low mortgage interest rates and still affordable home and condo prices.

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Something new could soon be added to the menu at McDonald's. The fast food giant is testing "Mighty Wings," its version of the increasingly popular chicken wings. It tried to launch the product back in the 1990s but with little success. Of course, chicken items have been part of the Mickey-D menu for some time. It was back in 1983 the McNuggets were introduced and are still a favorite. No word on when the wings might roll out nationally.

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I never met the man, but he sure seemed to be someone I would have liked to know. Huell Howser passed away Sunday at the young age of 67. For 25 years he hosted "California Gold," a TV show that highlighted many of the state's special attractions and communities. He talked with locals who provided insights into what makes California so special. There was nothing fancy about his show, no computer graphics or high-tech production, just Huell and a microphone in front of a cameraman. He always seemed surprised and in awe of every place he decided to stop as he traveled from one end of California to the other. RIP.

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Just imagine how good last night's BCS championship game would have likely been if it had been Oregon playing against Alabama. No doubt, the Tide deserves to be number one in the nation but I think they would have worked a lot harder against Oregon than they did against the outclassed Fighting Irish from Notre Dame.

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