Last winter, mortgage rates were rising, economic growth was sluggish, and the polar vortex left much of the country in a deep freeze. The combined effect of these factors, plus rising home prices, meant the housing market got off to a slow start and stayed below expectation through the spring selling season. This winter, on the other hand, there are a number of positive economic indicators boosting Americans’ confidence and leading to an increasingly optimistic outlook for this year’s housing market. Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, is among those calling for a robust 2015. In his most recent Economic and Housing Market Outlook, Nothaft cites falling mortgage rates, solid job gains, improved economic growth, and the recent drop in retail gas prices among the reasons for optimism. “On balance, there are a lot of positive opportunities in the U.S. economy at the start of the year, and the real question is whether or not households and businesses will be able to seize these opportunities and make the most of them,” Nothaft writes. Freddie Mac is calling for increased home sales and construction activity this year, as well as boosted refinance volume while mortgage rates remain low. More here.