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Housing to be a multiyear economic drag

Mortgage market commentary

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The 10-year T-note has been unable to break 4.5 percent in a half-dozen tries over three weeks, the same stopping point as last fall, which in turn has mortgages stuck above 6 percent. Without weak economic data, soon, long-term rates will rise. The data is OK -- lukewarm, but not falling apart. Retail sales were shaky in February, but the bad-weather excuse was legitimate. New claims for unemployment insurance have fallen below winter highs. The twin producer- and consumer-price indices are not improving as fast as the Fed would like, but were no cause for alarm. The only thing keeping rates as low as they are: mortgage/housing hysterics. Estimating economic drag is sensible; the Dow's 200-point case of the vapors on Tuesday's news of rising delinquencies and foreclosures ... silly. If you think that report was tough, you weren't around for the '73-'74 recession or '80-'82 (builders mailed 2X4s to Ron Reagan), or the oil patch crater in '86, or the submerging Atlantic sea...