The four stages of an economic cycle are expansion, peak, recession, and trough. The economy is in an expansionary phase when it grows for two or more quarters in a row. Interest rates are often lower, employment rates are growing, and consumer confidence is increasing. When the economy reaches its maximum productive output, the peak phase occurs, signaling the end of the boom. A contractionary phase begins after this point, when job figures and housing starts begin to fall. A trough is the lowest point in the business cycle, and it is marked by increased unemployment, less credit availability, and declining prices.