The commercial real estate segment could experience some growth in 2012, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Still, the association and market analysts remain cautiously optimistic with the economic crisis in Europe, as well as political wrangling and a bleak jobs picture remaining a top concern domestically. NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun said, "Vacancy rates are flat, leasing is soft and concessions continue to make it a tenant's market. However, with modest economic growth and job creation, the fundamentals for commercial real estate should gradually improve in the coming year." Yun's slightly upbeat report comes at a time when other analysts are expecting little to no growth in 2012. In fact, an economic report from Simon Hunt Strategic Services recently concluded that the U.S. and other industrialized economies face a "balance-sheet depression" that could naturally lead to another economic crisis. Simon Hunt is forecasting another recession that will hit either in 2012 and 2013. But within the CRE segment, NAR expects vacancy rates will drop a bit in 2012, causing rents to increase modestly. Apartment rents will be rising at a faster rate due to increased demand in the segment, NAR said. The association expects multifamily housing vacancy rates will drop from 5% in the fourth quarter to 4.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012. Areas with the lowest multifamily vacancy rates include Minneapolis, New York City and Portland, Ore. Office vacancy rates are expected to fall from 16.7%, their rate today, to 16.1 in the fourth quarter of 2012. In addition, industrial vacancies could fall from 12.3% in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 11.7% in 4Q of next year. Retail vacancies also are expected to edge down to 11.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 12.6% in 4Q of 2011. Write to Kerri Panchuk.