In an economic forecast posted to Freddie Mac’s Executive Perspectives Blog, Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says 2012 should see improvement in both the general economy and the housing market. Nothaft expects new construction and home sales to increase beyond last year’s levels. Specifically, he forecasts a 3 to 5 percent increase in existing-home sales and a 10 percent jump in total housing starts, though he’s less optimistic about a significant increase in single-family construction. Home prices, due to the variation in local performance, are harder to forecast. Nothaft says, however, the markets that have appreciated over the past year will likely see further gains in 2012. He also expects continued, though modest, improvement in the rate of economic growth and residential investment, as well as a declining unemployment rate through the end of the year. More here.