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Commentary: U.S. is better off than Europe

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Several unusual forces are pushing and tugging at markets, making it hard to isolate actual changes in trend. There were no good clues in the economic data, neither signs of stall nor acceleration. New claims for unemployment insurance in April have been a hair higher than in March, near 450,000 weekly. New mortgage applications are running 31 percent above February, confirming a remarkable spike in home sales, but we won't know until mid-May how much is due to the expiring tax credit (bet on "a lot"). First-quarter U.S. gross domestic product pulled up 3.2 percent in today's release, the third straight quarterly gain, but the stock market is down on the news. Consumer spending was a healthy component, which it sure as hell ought to be, given the Treasury hosing $150 billion that it doesn't have into American pockets each month. In one of the best measures of inflation, the GDP report had its annualized rate dropping from 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter to 1.1...