The latest Halifax house price figures showing a 0.5% drop, stacked on top of recent data from Nationwide, Hometrack and a range of others, suggest that prices may be holding steady.

But what should we read into that? Which way from here for prices? Will this period of relative stability (a) herald a gentle uplift in prices, (b) be the start of a flat period for prices, or (c) merely prove a temporary stay of execution ahead of more punishing drops in market prices.

No one really knows the answer to this.

However, while it's fair to say that views are pretty much split on this question, most of the more informed thinkers do tend towards a position somewhere between options b and c.

There is a view that average prices will continue to fall this year driven in part by rising unemployment. But most of the more informed pundits shy away from suggesting there will be a further spectacular crash.

To my mind, from here, what may prove more interesting to follow in the figures than average prices will be the scale of the divergence that we see in price growth regionally and between market sectors.

This may give us a slightly clearer indication of the relative strength of the factors driving prices. Although I hasten to add that with transaction so low the data will be pretty erratic and in need of cautious questioning.

In the mean time, however, we are left with the usual mix of informed speculation and a huge amount of uncertainty.

Among recent comments that have most chimed with me are those Richard Donnell made with the most recent release of the Hometrack price survey, which appear to be broadly supported by Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide's Chief Economist, that lack of supply is supporting prices.

That is to say there are fewer new homes being built, many new builds are being let out rather than sold, homeowners appear less eager to move and a significant number of home-owning house movers are choosing to let the property they leave rather than accept prices below their aspirations.

All these factors among others are squeezing the available stock and, despite low demand, creating a lack of options for those keen to buy into the market. The net effect is that the more desirable homes will sell at more robust prices than might otherwise be the case.

It is perhaps true that some of the "fear factor" holding back potential house buyers, particularly prevalent after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, may have dissipated. And there will always be those who "see a bargain" in prices 20% or so below peak.

If this is a reasonable assessment of where we are, the most striking observations are just how fragile this status quo is and just how heavily the risks are weighted to the downside.

On the upside we may take that view that demand might increase (a) if people take a more positive view of the market now that prices have stabilised, or (b) if mortgage funding becomes more readily available.

With the spectre of unemployment stalking the economy, both become big ifs.

Meanwhile on the downside we have (a) unemployment and (b) the potential for rising mortgage rates. Either could destabilise the current status quo that appears to be creating the shortage of supply.

Many of those opting to rent rather than sell may find their budgets stretched if rents are not paid or mortgage rates rise. The existing buy to let market may become further stressed. We may see a rise in distressed sales.

Who knows? But as I see it now, we are in a state of unstable equilibrium. Prices need not necessarily fall, but to avoid a further collapse I suspect there would need to be a few more props in place.