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George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

A very quiet week on Wall Street will likely end with a whimper today as New York braces for yet another major snow storm. There has been little in the way of economic news to move the markets this week and trading activity has had a slightly negative bias, so we may post the first down week for 2013. Even with that the Dow Industrials are still up nearly 6.5 percent since the start of the year and the major indexes are bumping up against record levels, which can be difficult to break through. Of course, once they clear those marks successfully there is a real good chance stocks could run sharply higher, much to the disappointment of the bears.

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One stock that is sharply higher this morning is LinkedIn. The business social media company reported strong earnings after the close last night and the stock is up nearly 19 percent in early trading at $147 a share. A dramatic tale of two stocks is the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook. I remember that when LinkedIn had its IPO in May 2011 the experts were saying to skip on the offering and wait for the much-anticipated arrival of Facebook on Wall Street. That is where the easy money will be made, they said. Well, LinkedIn went immediately up following its $45 IPO and has never looked back. Facebook, on the other hand, has been a fiasco.

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Consumer debt -- not including mortgage obligations -- rose to a record high of $2.78 trillion in December. At first blush that number might be a bit frightening. However, when you look a bit closer at the report from the Federal Reserve, there are some positive takeaways. For instance, consumers were actually reducing the amount of credit card debt, dropping $18.2 billion in December to $850 billion. So-called revolving debt, things like car loans, rose by $18.2 billion to $1.93 trillion. Outstanding auto loans are still below the peak level set back in 2008 before the Great Recession clobbered the economy.

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The list of billionaires compiled annually by Bloomberg usually has a few surprises and interesting people populating the world of the wealthy. But the one gathering the most comment this year is Lynsi Torres. Most people would not know the 30-year-old, three-time divorcee in a crowd. Yet, most people in Southern California know very well the company she now owns and operates: In-N-Out. Lynsi is a perfect example of being born at the right time in the right family. The hamburger company was founded by her grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, in 1948. Her uncle, Rich Snyder, drove the expansion of the company. He died, unfortunately, in a plane crash in 1993. Her father, Harry Guy Snyder, continued the expansion until his passing in 1999 and, following some very ugly court actions, the company wound up in the hands of Lynsi. Since it is a private company, very few details of the operation are made public and she avoids any media contact. Most people believe someday she will sell the company for well more than its current estimated value of $1.1 billion.

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If you want to look at the leaderboard for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am don't waste your time looking at the sports pages of the U-T. They decided to list about 10 players, or about 3 percent, of the pros and amateurs playing in perhaps the most prestigious golf tournament each year outside of the grand-slam events. As is often the case this time of the year, a lot of no-names are leading after the first round. A perennial favorite -- and a guy who rarely wins -- is Hunter Mahan, who is tied for the lead, six under par. For you Lee Westwood fans out there, he is just two strokes back, close enough to be in contention before shooting a 78 in the final round. Westwood is playing in the pro-am with his father, a real treat for the guy who helped him start his career in England and remains his biggest fan. San Diego's Kevin Stadler is three strokes behind the leaders and Phil Mickelson has cooled off after his great win last week in Arizona, even par after the first round. Tiger is not playing at Pebble Beach but Condoleezza Rice is. The former Secretary of State unfortunately shanked a drive on the sixth hole and hit a female spectator in the head.

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