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Economic road ‘lined with surprises’

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Mortgage rates are holding just below 6 percent, rising on the extraordinary strength of the purchasing managers' survey for December, released this morning. If the jobs data next Friday are likewise way above forecast, the markets' assumption about Fed patience through 2004 will be questioned immediately. It our custom at each New Year to recite our forecasting mantra, which is Peter Drucker's terse instruction to all: "Nobody can predict the future; keep a firm grasp of the present." Discipline is one thing, but temptation another; last New Year's hunch that mortgage rates would slip into the fives panned out. However, going into a war with a visibly post-bubble economy...well, there's no fish-in-a-barrel shot this year....