George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

March 3, 2015

Stop the presses! Yes, records were shattered on Wall Street yesterday as the Dow industrials and S&P 500 closed at all-time highs while the Nasdaq composite finally made it to 5,008, the first close above 5K in 15 years. Of course, the biz media is giving the news little attention, as is often the case when the markets are moving up. Headlines such as, "Nasdaq forfeits 5,000 as U.S. stocks slip," are flashing everywhere this morning as the markets give back some of yesterday's record gains, as is very normal. I guess we should let the permabears enjoy the little losses; after all, they've been dead wrong for six years.

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Stop the presses! Yes, records were shattered on Wall Street yesterday as the Dow industrials and S&P 500 closed at all-time highs while the Nasdaq composite finally made it to 5,008, the first close above 5K in 15 years.

Good news. Next time you go to Cuba you will be able to use your MasterCard. The credit card company announced yesterday that it is removing the block on transactions out of the island nation. Of course, there are very few places in Havana or anywhere else where credit cards are accepted, as it remains a cash-only economy. Obviously, that will change when the tourism ban is lifted and you can expect to see Visa and American Express take a similar action soon to be in place when visitors head to Cuba.

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This year's harsh winter weather -- nowhere near the storms of 2014 -- is taking its toll on auto sales. While the numbers being released this morning are less than terrible, they are mixed, at best. Chrysler reported sales up 6 percent thanks to the continued popularity of its Jeep products. Ford and General Motors reported vehicle car sales were down but more than made up by big-truck sales. SUVs, by the way, fall into the category of light trucks and most people back East and elsewhere are looking to buy winter-proof vehicles such as the F-series trucks from Ford. Overall, sales should come in at an annualized rate of about 16.5 million units.

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A report today from CoreLogic says that home prices in January rose an average of 5.7 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. Here in California, the increase was 7.3 percent. "Home price appreciation has generally been stronger in the western half of the nation and weakest in the mid-Atlantic and northeast states. We project home prices will continue to rise throughout the year and into 2016," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. He also points out, "A dearth of supply in many parts of the country is a big factor in driving up prices."

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No surprise, Bill Gates is at the top of the Forbes list of billionaires with a net worth of more than $79 billion. The founder of Microsoft has topped the list 16 times in the past 20 years. Close behind is Mexican investor Carlos Slim Helu and the third spot is once again filled by Warren Buffett. The ranks of billionaires continue to swell. For instance, you have to drop all the way down to No. 603 on the list to find Oprah Winfrey ($3 billion). The first San Diego billionaire, Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm, is No. 1,118 on the list. Also representing San Diego are Alex Spanos (use your own punch line) and investor Charles Brandes.

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I had the opportunity last night to watch the end of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach and, as I mentioned in the column yesterday, it was something special to see veteran Padraig Harrington, a written-off golf vet, win by outplaying a bunch of 20-something players. Harrington darned near blew on the 17th hole when he put his drive in the water and bogeyed. However, he birdied the last hole, making a tough 15-foot putt, forcing a playoff with 20-year-old Daniel Berger. Harrington won on the second hole. Very rarely do you see so many professional athletes happy when someone else wins. Young golfers should model their play and attitude on the course from Padraig Harrington.

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Video Interviews

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