Rates are rising today, for the first time this month, in reaction to actual news and fear of next week's news. Mortgages have the potential quickly to depart March's sub-5.5 percent range in favor of the 6 percent-ish level of the prior four months. The damage has been done by reports of a surprise, though modest, improvement in confidence among consumers, and that the Fed may be succeeding in its effort to increase the inflation rate (to "reflate") from too-low, sub-1 percent territory. The University of Michigan's survey of consumer confidence rose to 95.8 in March from 94.4 in February. Expectations had been for a continuation of the decline that began in January, when in that single month, all the gains in late 2003 evaporated. "Consumer confidence" is measured by asking respondents how they feel about the economy now and in the future, and some components of those feelings. Observers used to think that the confidence numbers had predictive value for future consumption spending...
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