The U.S. economy remains somewhat of a guessing game with few economists offering a concise blueprint for what's occurring now and what's expected to come.  

Take for example, Federal Reserve Bank of New York CEO William Dudley's address at the Center for Economic Development on Thursday.

Dudley delivered a mixed bag of economic news, saying he expects real gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2012 to hit a 2 1/4% annual growth rate. And while he calls the economy "a bit more upbeat over the past few months," the softer labor market in March suggested the nation is not yet in the clear.

On the housing side, starts firmed somewhat in the past few months. Yet, Dudley concedes starts remain at depressed levels.

Consumers also are a bit schizophrenic in their behavior, showing confidence on some fronts and caution on others. 

"Even with the robust increase of light vehicle sales, overall consumer spending in the first quarter appears to be rising at a similar moderate rate," Dudley said. "At the same time, real disposable income has been flat over the past three months, and the large increase of gasoline prices is likely further sapping consumers’ real purchasing power. And growth of business investment spending, which softened in the fourth quarter of 2011, may have been even a little softer in the first quarter of this year."

kpanchuk@housingwire.com