This Fed economic indicator looks pretty awful

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Much of Wall Street had been looking for the U.S. economy this year to exceed 3 percent annualized growth for the first time since the Great Recession.

One Federal Reserve indicator, though, shows that assumption could be in serious jeopardy.

The Atlanta Fed each week publishes a rolling update of its gross domestic product projection for the quarter. Not so long ago, the GDP Now indicator, as it is called, was at least within shouting distance of Street expectations.

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However, a recent batch of weak economic data—with the notable exception of the monthly nonfarm payrolls report—has the indicator flashing danger signs. Citigroup's economic surprise index, for instance, has hit its lowest level since July 2012. (The index measures how the data fare against expectations.)

The most recent GDP Now print, updated Thursday, puts first-quarter GDP growth at just 0.6 percent. That's a sharp decline from the 1.2 percent expectation from just last week and well off the 1.9 percent projected in early February.