Some progress this week by the authorities has helped mortgage rates fall to the 5.75 percent area for the first time since January. However, the improvement is limited to vanilla "agency" loans, the jumbo and even agency ARM markets still broken. The credit crunch is still alive, growing tighter, and the financial system is unstable. Meanwhile, there is also still an economy out there, very much alive. It is deteriorating, but at a remarkably gentle slope. Industrial production slipped 0.5 percent in February, but 80.9 percent of capacity is in use, a half-dozen points above the last, shallow recession. The weekly total of new claims for unemployment insurance is crawling up to the 375,000 range, about right for recession onset, but not spiking. The break in commod...
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