Psssst. Don't tell anybody, but low-fee 30-year mortgage deals reached 5.5 percent yesterday for the first time since last summer. Freddie Mac's early-week survey missed the decline, and won't discover the "news" until next week's survey, when the low-rate opportunity may be in the rear-view mirror. Mortgage prices move in real time with The Street, not in survey time. This week's economic data should have pushed rates up, not down – yet another indication that the economy and financial markets are in atypical condition. Retail sales in December gained .9 percent, and a cumulative 6.7 percent over December '02. Industrial production picked up a slender .1 percent, as did overall capacity utilization, now up to 75.8 percent, safely out of the collapse zone under 75 percent. The F...
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