WASHINGTON - Any bond traders who put out sell orders last week because of James Baker's comments about lower tax rates are welcome to come to the nation's capital and take some respite at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution. There they could quietly reassess market conditions away from the frantic trading room floors and the constant news flashes from the financial wires.

Mr. Baker, who is resigning as secretary of state to become President Bush's chief of staff and top campaign strategist, made a set of pro forma GOP comments for public consumption. Bond traders, struggling to digest the Treasury's $36 billion auction of notes and bonds, seized on Mr. Baker's tax-cutting remarks as an excuse to take profits.

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