Economists, however, caution against reading too much into the expected slump in output. They argue the GDP figure for the first quarter was held down by a confluence of temporary factors, including a problem with the model the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.
"The weakness in the U.S. recovery is not like a cart losing its wheels because the labor market remains healthy and housing activity is picking up," said Thomas Costerg, a U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York.
Several economists, including those at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, have cast doubts on the accuracy of GDP estimates for the first quarter, which have tended to show weakness over the last several years.
They argued the so-called seasonal adjustment is not fully stripping out seasonal patterns, leaving "residual" seasonality. The government said last week it was aware of the potential problem and was working to minimize it.
The Commerce Department will publish its first-quarter GDP revision on Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Dollar, energy drag
Apart from the statistical quirk, the economy, which expanded at a 2.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter, was hammered by labor disruptions at a major port. Also dragging on growth was a sharp decline in investment spending in the energy sector as companies such as Schlumberger and Halliburton responded to the plunge in crude oil prices.
"The cutback in oil investment was bigger than what people thought and the benefits through increased purchasing power for consumers have not materialized," said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York.
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Economists estimate unusually heavy snowfalls in February chopped at least one percentage point from growth.
Trade was hit both by the strong dollar and the ports dispute, which weighed on exports through the quarter and then unleashed a flood of imports in March after it was resolved.
The GDP report is also expected to show a second quarterly drop in corporate profits because of the dollar and oil prices.