Last week's long-term rates spent another week in relative stability: mortgages about 6.25 percent, held by the 10-year T-note near 4.7 percent. However, this stability is an illusion. I think the Wall Street end of the mortgage business is entering an episode of distress at this moment, and we will see pricing and availability do some strange things in the next week or two. The economic situation got a fright check on Wednesday when CPI rose .2 percent and the core rate jumped .3 percent -- that after months of well-behaved .1 percent gains. CPI is the least reliable of all the measures of inflation, and there is no sign of trouble from any of the other ones, but the whole rate structure is built on belief that inflation will moderate in the year ahead. Fear comes easily. The upward tilt in rates was offset by a soggy stock market, a consumer-dampening run of oil prices above $60, saber-rattling by Sen. John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney (at Iran), and by the mortgage devel...
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