The U.S. economy is starting the year in a neutral position, facing several forces that are pushing it in the right direction and also pulling it back. A rebounding housing market, gaining stock market and businesses that are expected to spend cash could push the economy forward, but there are factors that threaten to pull it back, including defaulting on U.S. debt. MAPI chief economist Daniel Meckstroth said default is more dangerous than the "fiscal cliff." "The last thing you want is a default on the interest on your securities," he said. "Just the possibility is a dangerous situation."

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