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Housing is economy’s elephant in the room

Commentary: President's real estate proposals 'will be without effect'

In a double surprise, the job market may at last have begun to revive, but the double-the-forecast, 243,000-job surge in January has done little harm to mortgages. We are still near 4 percent; with 10-year Treasury notes up from 1.82 percent but holding nicely at 1.95 percent. Ordinarily a payroll jump like this would have killed us, especially in combination with strong results in the two Institute for Supply Management surveys for January: manufacturing to 54.1 from 53.1 in December, and the service sector way up to 56.8 from 52.6 last month. Some of the calm reaction in markets is suspicion -- few other data confirm a big economic turn. Europe is a continuing cause of deep anxiety, but quiet this week, nothing but the muffled clanking of picks and shovels in the bottom of its ever-deeper hole. And housing hangs over everything in the U.S. economy, all measures of prices in continuing decline through December. But, to his great credit, President Obama devoted a speech ...

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