Long-term rates are off the floor: the 10-year T-note is rising toward 4.2 percent, which is taking low-fee mortgages north of 5.75 percent. Neither perceptions of economic health nor fear or the Fed are as much to blame as awareness that rates were on the floor, and could not proceed down the basement stairs without a new, bad-news trend. If a market can't get better, there is only one trading strategy left: sell. The economic data are OK, but just that: the purchasing managers' index this morning described September as a hair better than August, but nothing close to the strength of last spring. Both measures of consumer confidence, from the Conference Board and the University of Michigan, have tailed in the last couple of months, both in one key aspect: the job market. Increasing scarcity of jobs in these surveys suggests another shaky payroll number next Friday from the Labor Department, and a shaky one is an absolute requirement for mortgages to stay in the fives. Fannie Mae ha...
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