On the one hand.

Many analysts say the market here, and nationally, will stabilize this year. The economy remains generally healthy, they say, and builders have slowed down to avoid a pileup of unsold homes.

“There is reason to believe that [price] appreciation will be coming back soon,” says Luke Tilley, a Philadelphia economist at Global Insight, who follows the California market.

On the other hand.

“We’re expecting … a sharper and deeper contraction,” says Celia Chen, a housing economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pa. She says the state’s price run-up went beyond what could be justified by income or population growth.

The firm has predicted that several California cities will see prices drop further ““ some by 10 percent or more ““ and won’t hit bottom until sometime next year.

Well, that’s not very helpful.

If only we could find a one-armed economist.