jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Activity in the U.S. housing market has bottomed – a huge plus for the economy – but a recovery in prices will not be sustained and the threat from real estate to bank capital remains acute.

We are over the worst, but only because of massive official support, support that will soon ebb. That could lead to a relapse, especially among more expensive houses, but nothing along the lines of what we have suffered so far.

The news has been good.

Newly built homes sold in July at the fastest pace in ten months, up 9.6 percent, in U.S. Commerce Department data on Wednesday. This echoes a fairly good showing in last week’s data on sales of existing homes which are selling at the fastest pace in almost two years.

Miraculous to say, prices now look to be rising, at least as recorded by the Case-Shiller home price index which rose 2.9 percent between the first and second quarters, the biggest jump in close to four years.

This all comes as a huge relief. You can construct an argument that we are now most of the way through the most painful adjustment in house values and sales activity since around the time great clouds of dust blanketed the mid-west in the 1930s.