More news of a slowing economy today pushed money away from stocks and toward Treasury bonds, but in the routine since January, not to mortgages. The lowest-fee 30-year deals are still stuck just under 6 percent.
Today’s surprise was a big earnings miss and write-down at General Electric, which is disturbing because it indicates the slowdown spreading beyond finance and housing (although GE is an immense financial enterprise). The same contagion showed in the newest small-business index (the National Federation of Independent Business), which was down in March to the lowest reading since the second quarter of 1980. In the 28-year interval, unlike measures of consumer confidence, the NFIB has never recorded a false negative: every index downturn has coincided with recession.