George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

March 31, 2015

Not so fast, bears. Just when you thought we would see stock prices collapse heading toward the end of Q1, along comes a big ol’ rally. The Dow industrials were up 264 points yesterday, putting the index in positive territory for the first three months of 2015, just barely. You doubt the negative bias of much of the business media? Well, consider this lead headline today at MarketWatch.com, owned by the Wall Street Journal: "For stocks, the best time to sell and go away starts tomorrow." Say what? What makes such a comment so annoying is that April is the best month of the year for stock prices and encouraging people to get out now is insulting at best.

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Not so fast, bears. Just when you thought we would see stock prices collapse heading toward the end of Q1, along comes a big ol’ rally. The Dow industrials were up 264 points yesterday, putting the index in positive territory for the first three months of 2015, just barely.

By the way, and this is good news for us contrarians, there is ample evidence many investors have already dumped their stocks. The outflow of money from U.S. stock mutual funds has topped $44 billion in the first three months of the year, the biggest bailout since 2009. Where has the money gone, you ask? Turns out, people would rather invest in companies based in Greece, France, Italy and other European countries, as the flow of funds into international mutual funds rose $46.6 billion. Remember, peaks in stock prices occur when there is a mad rush into the market, not when investors head for the exits.

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San Diego continues to be one of the leading markets for residential real estate. The Case-Shiller survey of home prices in the 20 largest metropolitan areas showed, nationwide, a decline of 0.1 percent in January. However, San Diego was one of three regions where prices were up 0.7 percent in the month. Over the past 12 months, prices have increased 4.6 percent in the 20 areas, while going up 5.1 percent here. As is often the case, the people who publish the report found a way to put a negative spin on the price report. "Home prices are rising roughly twice as fast as wages, putting pressure on potential homebuyers and heightening the risk that any uptick in interest rates could be a major setback. Moreover, the new home sector is weak; residential construction is still below the pre-crisis peak," said the bubbly David Blitzer, who prepares the price survey.

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Despite all the headlines of doom and gloom, U.S. consumers are feeling darned good about things. The Conference Board this morning released a report showing its consumer confidence index rose sharply in March as household attitudes about employment and income improved. Of course, like Case-Shiller, the analysts at the Conference Board feel obligated to say bad things about a good report. Lynn Franco, the in-house naysayer, added that even with the gains in confidence, economic growth "doesn't appear to be gaining any significant momentum heading into the spring months." Huh?

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Amazon.com is taking on Angie's List and other personal services companies. It has launched Amazon Home Services, an on-demand professional services program. "In less than 60 seconds, customers can now browse, purchase and schedule hundreds of professional services from wall mounting a new TV to installing a new garbage disposal to house cleaning," says a news release announcing the program. It says all service providers have been handpicked, backgrounds checked and are appropriately insured. All services are guaranteed and Amazon says it will make sure customers are satisfied. This is a direct attack on retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's, who offer similar assistance on installation of products purchased at their stores.

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The world, or at least the golf world, is waiting breathlessly for an announcement as to whether Tiger Woods will tee it up at the Masters tournament, set to get started next week. Perhaps the most prestigious of the four major events, the Masters in Augusta, Ga., has been the site of some of Tiger's biggest victories, with four Green jackets in his closet. To put it mildly, his efforts to return to the tour have been less than successful. However, the lack of Tiger Woods in the field takes away some of the drama -- and viewers -- of even an event like the Masters. We should know his decision at any minute.

More George Chamberlin Columns

Stocks' highs can lead to financial fraud — and mental stress

The powerful recovery of the stock market since the end of the Great Recession has been impressive, to say the least. The Dow Jones industrial average moved from 6,547 on March 9, 2009, to recent record highs above 18,000, a gain approaching 200 percent.

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Not so fast, bears. Just when you thought we would see stock prices collapse heading toward the end of Q1, along comes a big ol’ rally. The Dow industrials were up 264 points yesterday, putting the index in positive territory for the first three months of 2015, just barely.

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Winding down the first quarter of 2015. As of Friday, it looked like the first three months of the year would go into the books with the major indexes posting modest declines as stock prices have seesawed through the quarter and the Dow industrials were down just 0.8 percent. Well, what a difference a day can make.

State laws aim to protect consumers from predatory lenders

Hardly a year goes by that there isn’t some type of legislation or regulation proposed to address abusive short-term lending programs often referred to as payday loans. This year is no different.

Weekly Updates

George Chamberlin on the Markets

March 30, 2015 -- Executive Editor George Chamberlin recaps last week's financial events and looks at the week's upcoming announcements.

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Video Interviews

Xpera Group's Alan Nevin on apartments, commercial space

March 12, 2015 -- George Chamberlin speaks with Alan Nevin, director of economic and market research at Xpera Group, about the various market segments of commercial space around San Diego.

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