(COLLEGE STATION, Tex.) — “If the U.S. economy is like a vehicle driving on a dirt road in Afghanistan,there are four known mines that must be negotiated,” Dr. Mark Dotzour, Chief Economist for the RealEstate Center at Texas A&M University, said yesterday.

Speaking to a group of the nation’s largest real estate investors, Dotzour compared the economy to anarmored vehicle, well made, equipped and manned by talented operators. But the drivers know thereare four land mines ahead that are certain to detonate.

“The question is how the vehicle will perform as each mine explodes,” Dotzour told attendees at the 11th Annual Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and Private Fund Investing in Laguna Beach, Calif.

“Land mine number one is the budget crisis faced by states, cities and school districts, the result offalling tax revenues,” he said.

“The second land mine is the pervasive contraction of credit occurring in the United States as businessloans, mortgage loans and consumer credit continue to fall.

“Land mine number three is the question of what will happen to mortgage rates when the Federal Reserve stops buying all of the new U.S. mortgages at the end of March.”

Dotzour said the final land mine is Congress changing the rules for taxes, capital gains taxes, cap andtrade, possible windfall profits taxes and new regulation of financial institutions.

“These land mines have been identified by business owners and investors over many months,” saidDotzour. “The uncertainty must be confronted before job growth resumes in a meaningful way.”