Rising family income coupled with low mortgage rates are two of the critical ingredients for a strong housing market, which are expected to be at work in 2004, according to Freddie Mac's latest economic forecast. The income gains are fed by fiscal and monetary policy reinforcing each other to drive real GDP growth to an expected 4.3 percent real gain in 2004, Freddie Mac predicted. Economic expansion at that rate is sufficient to gradually draw down the unemployment rate, from 5.9 percent as of November to an average of 5.5 percent during the last quarter of 2004. The job gains will drive family income gains. This year began on a good note with the Institute for Supply Management's release of its manufacturing survey data for December, which showed that the increase in new manufacturing orders was the best in more than 50 years, and the overall index – which combines responses on new orders, employment, production, and other factors – attained its highest reading in 20...
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