1. All eyes on the economy

As 2010 drew to a close, unemployment remained painfully elevated and many analysts were predicting further price declines in housing markets hit hard by foreclosures and joblessness.

But a new fear was spreading in some quarters: Mounting government debt and "QE2," the Federal Reserve’s latest initiative to resuscitate the economy, could weaken the dollar and spur runaway inflation.

Like previous "quantitative easing" initiatives, QE2 — the $600 billion Treasury purchase program announced by the Fed in November — was intended to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing in order to stimulate economic growth.

But signs of an emerging recovery mean Treasurys have fallen out of favor with investors, who would rather be in stocks and commodities if the economy is poised to take off. That’s sent long-term interest rates, including mortgages, back on an upward trajectory — the opposite of what the Fed had hoped for.

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