Long-term interest rates have stabilized safely in the Fed-controlled zone, with 10-year Treasury notes at 2 percent and mortgages at 4 percent. Stocks and other markets hope for a third round of quantitative easing — "QE3" — perhaps as early as next week’s Fed meeting. But that move will likely wait for either weaker global economic data or inflation falling toward deflation, or both.

U.S. data is softening — not anywhere near a new double-dip conversation, but not accelerating to self-sustenance, either. March retail sales did OK, up 0.8 percent, but the housing recovery ballyhooed since winter has been exposed as a promotional feature: New starts fell 5.8 percent in March, new permits rose (but nobody gets a paycheck for one of those), and sales of existing homes fell a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent from February to March. One theory: Diminished inventories of listings have crimped sales. Uh-huh. "Saudis buy, destroy science for 200 MPG cars!"

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