U.S. credit problem: hiding in plain sight

Commentary: Housing downturn to go from 'Abbottabad' to worse?

Financial markets have been on hold this week, the freeze a perfect reflection of widespread uncertainty about the U.S. and global economies.

Long-term Treasury and mortgage rates have held their dramatic, near-half-percent drops of the last month, but the declines themselves tend to prevent any further downward movement.

A deeper slide will require something new: weaker data here, or Europe finally cracking (see Morgan Kelly’s commentary in the Irish Times), or a China slowdown.

The small-business survey at www.nfib.com weakened slightly in April but broadly, with seven of 10 components falling, and confirmed the dive in the March survey.

New claims for unemployment insurance improved from last week’s odd surge, but the four-week moving average is the worst since last November. April retail sales picked up a thin 0.5 percent, but 0.3 percent of the gain was the price of gasoline alone.