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Hard data and hard questions

Commentary: Feds' foot is on the credit hose?

Long-term Treasury yields pierced the post-August high, 3.5 percent, trading today at 3.57 percent, but did little damage to mortgage rates still holding close to 5 percent. The proximate causes of the rise: Another huge week of Treasury borrowing finally ran into resistance -- another $1.4 trillion is coming in 2010, so why hurry to buy the paper? There was some good news on the consumer front. November retail sales rose 1.3 percent, about double the forecast, and one consumer-confidence measure also beat expectations. New claims for unemployment insurance tend to be volatile this time of year, but are holding the improved, 475,000 weekly range, down 50,000 from early fall and 175,000 below the peak of last winter. A three-sided argument still rages: the insuppressible "Strong Recovery" people, found mostly near the stock market; the "Death-by-Fire" tribe, still certain that inflation is the main risk and yelling about the dollar, gold, commodities ...