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Reasonably good news on residential real estate has of late prompted a kind of enthusiasm about housing prospects. It is good to see some improvement in sales and construction activity and these signs, among others, do suggest that the worst on housing has very likely passed. But too much enthusiasm is misplaced. If the free fall is over, much will prevent housing from acting as an economic growth engine for years to come. The economy will grow and the urgency surrounding home values and mortgages will gradually lift, but the best the sector is likely to offer the economy is neutrality.

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