March 20, 2002 11:00 pm

Anyone thinking about buying a home or refinancing an existing mortgage in order to take advantage of todays low interest rates had better act fast. Economists are saying that rates could start edging upward later this year.

TUESDAYS news that the Federal Reserve decided to hold the federal funds rate at 1.75 percent shouldnt be viewed as bad. Last years decline in interest rates reflected a nation in recession. Leaving the rates unchanged reflects more confidence in the economy. But for the time being, commercial banks prime lending rate, the benchmark for consumer and business loans, will remain at 4.75 percent. Thats good news for consumers and businesses if they can take advantage of the low rates.

Americans can only hope that the Fed understands the nations economy. Indicators are pointing to an economic rebound, but not to the extent that interest rates had to be raised now.

Among the positive signs are a marked swing in inventory investment, the Fed said, as well as companies adding jobs for the first time in seven months and a 1.4 percent growth rate in the economy in the fourth quarter of 2001. Economists are predicting the Fed will start raising rates in May or June, which would signal an end to the recession.

After a year of companies slowing production and cutting jobs, combined with the emotional and economic tolls of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, America needs a dose of good economic news. The Feds decision and comments this week may be the best sign weve had in months. Although higher interest rates wont have people jumping in the streets, the fact that the Fed and economists recognize positive movement in the economy would be good sign.

If the experts are right, interest rates will start creeping upward later this year. Until then, homeowners and homebuyers can try to benefit from the only thing thats been good about the recession. Take advantage of the low interest rates while they exist.


Athletes have playoffs. Dance teams, cheerleaders, choirs and bands have contests and mock trial teams have competitions. Anyone who wants to see what another segment of our young people are doing should plan on checking out

La Grande High Schools juried art show tonight through March 30 at the Potters House Gallery, 1601 Sixth St.

Students creative talents will be on display, starting with an opening reception and awards from 7 to 9 tonight. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Plan on attending and showing support for the role fine arts plays in a well-rounded education.