The year 2013 could bring ongoing easing in mortgage and consumer lending standards as well as growth in housing and the overall economy, Capital Economics said in a new report. But it will only happen if policymakers cut a deal to stop a fiscal cliff of automatic tax cuts on the majority of Americans, the economics research firm concluded.  

U.S. economists Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales project U.S. gross domestic product growth of 2% in 2013, with the year starting off slow and picking up speed sometime in the second half.

"A successful fiscal cliff outcome could trigger an acceleration in growth," the two economists said. "But equally, a fiscal cliff failure or a renewed crisis in the euro-zone would hit the economy hard."

The report notes that bank lending has been rising since March of 2011 and the "value of outstanding mortgages has recently begun to edge higher."

The easing of credit standards for auto loans and credit cards is another recent development.

"The boost to auto loans could lead to a marked pick-up in vehicle sales next year," the economists added.

But the biggest development for 2012 was the rebounding housing market, Dales and Ashworth said.

"House prices reached a nadir at the end of last year and rebounded by close to 5% over the first nine months of 2012. Obviously we can't expect this rate of improvement to continue indefinitely and, by historical standards, housing market activity is still deeply depressed," the economists wrote. "Nevertheless, we doubt this rally will peter out entirely."

Heading into 2013 household debt looks better and the household debt to disposable income ratio is now lower, hovering around 113%.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com