Reports about the U.S. economy are generally negative, with jobless claims stagnating and the unemployment rate rising. But Barclays Capital assured Friday these signs do not indicate a double-dip back into recession. “The U.S. economy has clearly hit a soft patch, with nearly every data point this week surprising to the downside,” Barclays said. “We do not see data over the past month as the start of a double-dip but rather as a temporary soft patch.” Barclays believes this temporary downturn is driven by concerns over inflation, which have hindered consumer spending. However, unless energy prices keep rising, real consumer spending should now improve, Barclays said. While the research firm is not calling a bottom to the market, it does expect things to get better, even in the housing market. Home prices continued to fall in the first quarter, hitting a new low and reaching levels seen in 2002, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index. “We do not believe this decline has macro implications,” Barclays said of falling home prices. Barclays noted that rates will fall substantially lower than the current 4.69% due to the lackluster nature of the refinance market. A significant proportion of refi activity from the second half of 2010 was derived from streamline Home Affordable Refinance Program channels as opposed to looser underwriting standards. “We feel that primary rates need to head to at least 4.15% before we see the refi index (see graph below) back to the levels seen last August,” Barclays said. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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