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Spend, Spend, Spend

Spending keeps the economy moving, and Americans are doing more of it:

The latest sign emerged Tuesday as the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted the biggest gains in seven years. Housing prices rose in every one of the 20 cities tracked, continuing a trend that began three months ago. Similar strength has appeared in new and existing home sales and in building permits, as rising home prices are encouraging construction firms to accelerate building and hiring.

The broad-based housing improvements appear to be buoying consumer confidence and spending, countering fears earlier this year that many consumers would pull back in response to government austerity measures.

If Americans are spending more because rising home values are getting them out from under water on the mortgages, that's fine. But if we're spending more by going back to using inflated home values as a piggy bank, then we're right back where we were just before the housing crash. Or if we're spending more because the Fed's asset purchases have made us feel richer, floating up on the bubble of an inflated stock market...

...well, that's a whole 'nother crash just waiting to happen.

Which is it? No clue.