Industry NewsMarkets & Economy

Too many numbers, too little credit

Commentary: Economy is on Fed, Treasury 'life support'

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Long-term interest rates slid a little this week, but confined in a tight, 30-day range: the 10-year T-note between 3.5 percent and 3.28 percent, and mortgages close to 5.25 percent. The media are now giving every possible positive spin to new data, which are in reality still ambiguous: Ever-so-slight improvements look more like floors than durable uptrends. Retail sales did pick up 1.1 percent in August, excluding "Cash for Clunkers," and industrial production rose 0.8 percent, that gain bloated by "Clunkers" and still 10.7 percent below last year. New claims for unemployment insurance are down 100,000 weekly from the worst of spring, but sticky near 550,000, and long-term claims are still rising. In the land of un-spun, no-foolin', straight-shootin', original-source raw data, nothing beats the Fed's quarterly Z-1 Flow of Funds report. It accounts for changes in all the money and credit moving in the U.S., and has only two flaws: It lags the quarter-en...