The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In our view, the bull market likely continues with gusto throughout 2012, with strongly positive equity returns. Sentiment remains dour -- investors continue to fear an imminent eurozone collapse, too much debt, a deteriorating U.S. economy, political turmoil, etc. However, we view today's dour sentiment as an additional positive factor helping boost stocks in 2012, as even moderately better-than-expected outcomes should result in an upside surprise. And in our view, there's ample room for upside surprise. Overall, economic fundamentals are stronger than many appreciate. The following are just a few factors highlighting underappreciated economic strength.
Credit and liquidity conditions have materially improved. After months of negative lending growth, bank loans and leases are expanding -- likewise with commercial and industrial loans. (shown in the charts below). These are positive signs of banks' increased willingness to lend, which should prove fodder for ongoing economic growth. Increasing lending means greater economic activity as consumers buy homes and cars and businesses buy capital equipment needed to boost production activity. U.S. Commercial Bank Loans and Leases
Source: Thomson Reuters U.S. Commercial & Industrial Loans Source: Thomson Reuters Source: Thomson Reuters U.S. Shipments of Core Capital Goods Source: Thomson Reuters Source: Thomson Reuters Naturally, the aforementioned factors aren't an exhaustive examination of the entire economy. However, taken together, they provide ample evidence of a healthy and growing U.S. economy.