At the worst of Thursday, the lowest-fee, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages touched 6.25 percent (yes, that's a "six"). The jump is a technical affair likely to reverse, and certainly not a sign of economic recovery. Long-term rates had been in the same place for four weeks, with the bond market running out of buyers at near-record lows and overdue for counter-move. All credit markets are clogged (another portion, the $360 billion "auction-rate securities" market locked-up altogether this week), and even government agency mortgages are difficult to distribute. Not much in new data, all poor: the NFIB small-business survey fell to recession, as did the New York "Empire" index; January industrial production was flat, and the University of Michigan index of consumer confidence this week fell to 69.4, a 16-year low. The top show: Valentine's Day in Congress. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke....
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