UA economic forecaster Marshall Vest told a group… that 2006 exceeded his expectations from a year ago and will register the second strongest year for growth in the current five-year expansion, bested only by 2005.

Vest isn’t optimistic, however, about Arizona home prices.

A sharp fall in the number of houses sold, along with an increasing inventory of units, will lead to additional price declines, he predicted. Buyers are convinced prices will decline further, he said, and there is no longer any urgency to buy in the market.

Nevertheless,

Vest said the drag from the housing sector will not be big enough or strong enough to derail the whole economy.

In Arizona and Tucson, he noted, the economy never really shrinks: It just stops growing.

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