Mortgage rates have begun a decline from the irrational levels of the last month, now approaching 6 percent and says here likely to cross back into the fives. Part of the decline is due to deteriorating economic news. The toughest was a surge in new claims for unemployment insurance, up to 373,000, consistent with recession and suggesting that next week's payroll report will show February contraction. Orders for durable goods tanked 5.3 percent in January, as have February measures of consumer confidence. Inflation is worrisome, but a soon-to-blow commodity bubble will fix that. A two-part story today, housing as scapegoat for the failures of others. The real causes of this credit crunch -- still called "subprime" -- and the recession it has spawned are the grotesque failure of structured-finance products on Wall Street, and failure of oversight by their regulators. The strange story of mortgage-rate spike and reversal began with the January fable that mortgage-backed sec...
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