Fed acts for appearance's sake

Commentary: Discount-rate hike calms inflation hawks without actual tightening

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Ten-year Treasury rates have risen to 3.81 percent, roughly the same altitude as the tops last June, August and December; mortgage rates are still below 5.25 percent.

The increase has been caused by the usual worries: the Fed is going to tighten, the recovery is gaining strength, and the Treasury is borrowing too much money. Someday these forces will blow the eyebrows off the bond market, but this is not that day.

Mortgage applications have stalled at a level 18 percent below one year ago, and mortgage closings early this year are off more than that. January industrial production rose 0.9 percent, most likely a temporary spate of inventory-building, but it still counts.