Economy looks bleaker by the day for first quarter

Economists shaved already weak growth forecasts by a few more tenths Friday, after wholesale inventories fell 0.5 percent month over month in February, much more than the anticipated 0.1 percent decline. January was also revised down by 0.4 percent.

The closely watched Atlanta Fed GDPNow model now shows first-quarter growth tracking at 0.1 percent, compared to a 0.4 percent estimate earlier in the week. JPMorgan economists now forecast the economy only expanded by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, from 0.7 percent.

Barclays economists shaved tracking GDP growth for the first quarter to 0.3 percent from 0.4 percent.

“Weaker-than-expected wholesale inventories in February, along with downward revision to prior months’ data, cut our estimate of total private inventory investment in Q1. Part of the decline in wholesale inventories in February look anomalous however, leading us to revise up our March wholesale inventory assumption,” said Barclays economists in a note.

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