New economic data suggest key sectors of the U.S. economy may be improving as the 2012 presidential election campaign heats up, analysts said. The moribund housing market has picked up, the government reported a downward trend in the number of first-time unemployment claims and U.S. imports and exports have improved. Taken together, the signs of an improving economy point to a positive shift in President Obama\'s re-election bid, The Washington Post reported Thursday. \"The better the economy between now and November, the better it is for Democrats and Obama,\" said Ray Fair, a Yale University professor who studies the relationship between economics and electoral outcomes. Some analysts noted the improvements came after the end of June when many voters had already settled on their candidates for the fall elections. A July poll by The Washington Post and ABC News indicated presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney held a 49 percent-to-44 percent lead over Obama on who would better handle the economy. Romney\'s campaign has dismissed the idea that the economy has found new legs. \"We have had a record-high level of unemployment with rates above 8 percent for 42 straight months, ticking up to 8.3 percent just last week,\" Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Post by e-mail. \"President Obama has proven he is unqualified to lead us to an economic recovery.\" Obama campaign officials said voters won\'t make their decisions solely on economic performance but will consider Obama\'s economic vision compared with Romney\'s. \"Americans will face a choice between a president who believes we should continue to build the economy from the middle class out,\" Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said, \"and Mitt Romney, who believes that placing all his chips on $5 trillion tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires will magically create middle-class jobs, when it never has in the past.\"