IN the manner of Janis Paige in the old Broadway smash, Pajama Game, U.S. bankers are lamenting the discovery that a 71% interest rate "doesn't mean a helluva lot." Pinched for lendable funds by Washington's fight against inflation, the nation's major banks last week raised the cost of borrowing to that level—the fourth rise in little more than three months. The prime rate, the interest that banks charge their best corporate customers, went up a full i% from the 7% rate set only last January. Although the new rate was a historic peak, neither businessmen nor bankers seemed much impressed.

"The real...

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