The financial world is gradually relaxing from immediate fears of Japan and the Middle East. As stocks recover some of their fright losses, bonds are as usual the reverse: the 10-year Treasury note is back up to 3.4 percent (from 3.55 percent pre-panic, and 3.15 percent in panic mode); mortgages didn't move much and are still hanging in just below 5 percent.
The failure of these markets to snap all the way back is a reasonable reflection of new economic data. February orders for durable goods surprised on the far downside: Expected to rise 1.1 percent, they fell 0.9 percent, and there was no distortion by volatile sectors.
Housing data are numbing. Sales of existing homes were forecast to fall 4.5 percent in February, but dumped 9.6 percent, the median