Mortgage rates may not go any lower than this

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Today's Agenda

There's a lot of this going around.

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Telltale Charts: Stubborn Mortgage Rates Edition 

Because I am a financial genius, I saw interest rates crashing five months ago and rushed to refinance the mortgage on my sprawling New Jersey estate (three bedrooms). In the months it took to close and thereafter, I watched as interest rates continued to collapse even harder and feared I'd made a terrible market-timing mistake. But mortgage rates, weirdly, never fell much below the rate I locked down in early March.  

My mortgage broker talked me off the ledge a few times about this. Brian Chappatta could have done the same. Back in May, he wrote about how mortgage rates were stubbornly not imploding and suggested they probably wouldn't drop much further. They didn't, and recently seem to have bounced off what could be a lower bound of 3%:

It may seem odd that mortgage rates aren't joining Treasury yields in spelunking to the center of the Earth. But as my mortgage broker and Brian explain, soaring demand for mortgages, along with worries about the economy tipping into a deeper recession, help motivate lenders to keep rates relatively high. Then again, these are weird times. We'll see how things stand in another five months.

Take Your Time, Hurry Up: Stimulus Edition

Stubbornly high mortgage rates may make some of us feel better about our financial decisions, but they aren't great for the economy. And the economy needs all the help it can get. For that you can partly thank President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress, who have spent the past couple of months dawdling while a House-passed stimulus bill gathered dust. Bloomberg's editorial board has some thoughts on what the GOP should do to hammer out a last-minute compromise just before various earlier relief measures expire. It's somewhat complicated stuff, including tweaking special unemployment benefits and supporting small businesses, essential workers and state and local governments. And now there's very little time to work it all out. But Michael R. Strain warns the GOP that dropping the ball would devastate the economy in the short and long terms, not to mention to their own political fortunes.

Always Look on the Bright Side: Recession Edition

The economic outlook will be grim as long as coronavirus rages out of control. But there are some glimmers of distant hope breaking through the thunderhead clouds. Brooke Sutherland has listened to a bunch of industrial companies' earnings calls so you don't have to, and she reports some see a future that isn't quite so dependent on simply cranking out billions of respirators. 

Manufacturing has held up unusually well in this recession so far, notes Conor Sen, maybe because the nature of the downturn itself is so unusual. Construction's doing OK, too, partly because of all that housing demand mentioned earlier. You'll note these industries tend to be dominated by male workers, which means this recession has also not been as awful for men as these things usually are, Conor notes. Of course, this also means women, who already had to deal with lower pay and less opportunity, are suffering more. 

There's Got to Be a Better Way: China Edition

The Trump administration has spent the past four years turning China into Enemy Number One, but it has prosecuted this new Cold War in odd fashion. Its primary weapons — tariffs and ally-bullying — are not only blunt but self-harming. A group of Senate Republicans have come up with a much smarter plan for dealing with China, writes Hal Brands. It includes subtler and more strategic confrontations with Beijing and a revival of international alliances, institutions and diplomacy. Such ideas will probably never fly with Trump, but his potential successor seems much more amenable. 

Telltale Charts

The pandemic has upended the restaurant business, as we all know. It's been a death sentence for many. For the survivors, though, it has helped clarify the future, writes Sarah Halzack. For example, delivery just won't ever be a thing for McDonald's, it turns out. Chipotle Mexican Grill, on the other hand, has seen a huge surge in delivery and pickup orders, some of which will stick.

Further Reading

Trump's latest problematic retweets remind us how he keeps falling for stuff he sees on TV. — Jonathan Bernstein 

ESG investments are simply better investments. — Matthew Winkler 

Working from home is the latest nightmare for commercial landlords. — Andrea Felsted 

With attendance plunging, colleges and the towns that rely on them are in big trouble. — Noah Smith 


Goldman Sachs warned the dollar could lose its reserve status.

New York is investigating the Hamptons party where Goldman's CEO DJed.

Mask advocates seize on a study of coronavirus transmission in an airplane

Bats have had the novel coronavirus for decades.

Kominers's Conundrums Hint

If you're still a leap of logic or two away from solving this week's stuntman Conundrum, maybe think about what would happen if instead of jumping over the cars, our daredevil were to just get in line with the rest? Or similarly, how do things change if we shuffle the orders of the cars in line? — Scott Duke Kominers


The best ice cream shop in every state. (h/t Scott Kominers)

Indian schoolgirls discover an Earth-bound asteroid.

Scientists pull living microbes, possibly 100 million years old, from the sea bottom.

An hour of slow breathing changed my life.

Note: Please send ice cream and complaints to Mark Gongloff at

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