Why 2016 keeps getting uglier for US economy

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Bill Gross: US economy headed for recession

When it comes to economic growth, 2016 is looking a lot like 2015 — and probably even worse.

Friday's report showing that gross domestic product grew just 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter brought to a conclusion another year of dashed hopes for economic liftoff — "escape velocity," as it is sometimes called.

Seven years of zero interest rates, $3.7 trillion worth of Fed money printing and more than $6 trillion piled onto the public debt resulted in an economy still struggling to break 2.5 percent full-year growth. In fact, if the first reading on GDP holds up on revision, the U.S. economy will have expanded just 2.4 percent for the full year, according to the Commerce Department.

At the start of 2015, most economists expected U.S. growth of 3 percent or better, predicated on sizable gains in consumer spending, business investment and construction. Instead, the year featured consumers mostly hanging onto their gas savings, weak capital expenditures (including a decline of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter) and slumping oil prices battering investment instead of lifting spending.

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Looking ahead, the early indicators are not good, with chances of a recession gaining more traction on Wall Street.