The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow forecast has resumed its rightful place as a harbinger of economic doom

And we’re back.

After several weeks of upbeat forecasts, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast — which has been closely tracked in recent quarters as it was the only forecast in the first quarter of 2015 to nail that disappointing GDP number — is projecting a dismal first quarter for the US economy once again.

Following Monday’s personal income and spending report for February, the Atlanta Fed’s measure sees the pace of growth in the first quarter of this year rising just 0.6%.

Earlier this projection had seen the economy growing as fast as 2.3%.

Monday’s income and spending numbers now indicate that real personal consumption rose 1.8% in the first quarter of 2016, down from a prior expectation for a 2.5% increase in consumption.

In February, personal spending rose 0.1% but January’s number — which had earlier indicated a 0.5% bump in spending — was revised down to just 0.1%. Additionally, the US trade deficit is expected to take 0.51% off first quarter GDP, more than the 0.26% drag on growth that was expected.

Now, the Atlanta Fed’s model is constructed on real-time, un-revised data, and with US GDP estimates going through three rounds of revisions, June’s third estimate for first quarter growth could look quite a bit different. For example, the pace of growth to end 2015 roughly doubled from the first to third estimate.

But caveats aren’t that fun!

What is fun is that the argument over a US recession is now likely to come back.

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