An economic tale of human nature, forces of nature

Commentary: Cycling through the post-catastrophe 'counter-panic'

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This week was more about human nature than economics and markets.

When Fukushima looked catastrophic, the fearful bought Treasurys and 10-year yields fell to 3.15 percent from 3.55 percent in six days, taking mortgages to 4.75 percent.

Since Japan is now merely awful, the stock market drunks are back in charge, fright-money coming out of bonds and rates rising on the happy thought of war with Libya. Go figure.

In the U.S. economy, little has changed. A spurt in manufacturing activity has the blind watchers of traditional patterns buzzing, and for once they may be right: It is possible that the U.S. competitive gap with the world is closing.

As for the rest of the economy … the Fed’s post-meeting statement said the "recovery is on firmer footing." Fair enough. No footing is firmer than flat ground, and stripped of revisions that’s what the new-data trend was: core consumer price index, industrial production, starts and permits for new homes, mortgage applications, unemployment claims … all flat.