All these years writing about financial markets, never had to explain one like this: Mortgage rates have broken a two-month rise, falling now because of a comedian, a skirt-chaser, and a professor failed as a politician. In Italy. Election results on Monday: Mario Monti, darling of the one-Europers and intellectual austerity, drew a minuscule 9 percent. The remainder split evenly between the responsible Left led by Pier Bersani; wicked Silvio Berlusconi and his conservatives; and satirist Beppe Grillo's Five Star insurgency, anti-austerity, anti euro, and pro-lira. All refused to cooperate with the others. The Merkel Plan for endless sacrifice is done in Italy, cash heading back to U.S. bonds and mortgages for safety. Here at home the prospect of economic dampening by sequester also helped the rate decline. New data were garbled by January tax changes pulling some activity into 2011 and pushing some out; and housing numbers improved but are seldom reliable in winter. Many h...
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