The recent spate of disappointing data shows an unpleasant truth: Americans may have to recalibrate their expectations for economic growth.
Forget Friday's stronger-than-expected report on first-quarter GDP: The quarter itself was still weak, the second quarter outlook is better but raising questions, and economic measures overall have been missing economists' expectations at a steady clip.
One measure helps show just how poorly the economy has performed compared to the Wall Street outlook.
The Citi Economic Surprise Index, which tracks actual data against predictions, is running at a 15-month low (chart by years from FactSet):
The significance of the divergence between performance and expectations is that sentiment surveys consistently have been showing high levels of optimism that the economy was about to break free of its post-financial crisis malaise. President Donald Trump's pro-growth agenda of tax cuts, lower regulation and infrastructure spending helped drive that belief, but his plans have stalled.
Unless the data start to change in a meaningful way, it could be time to put those hopes on hold.
"There might have been too much optimism as to what the hard data will deliver," said Ed Yardeni, head of Yardeni Research. "After the election ... nobody wanted to bet against (Trump's) predictions that his policies could revive economic growth to 3 or 4 percent. I think it's looking more and more like a stretch, if nothing else (because) his policies aren't going to be implemented anytime soon."
Indeed, Friday also brought news that consumer sentiment, in the closely watched University of Michigan survey, nudged lower in May and was below forecasts. That came the same morning that a revision put first-quarter GDP growth at 1.2 percent — better than the estimate but still the worst in a year.
The outlook for the second quarter is better, though economists are all over the place regarding just how much of an improvement will occur.