Economic growth in the United States is grinding to a near halt, with the first-quarter GDP estimate coming in at just 0.2%.

This compares with an already soft fourth quarter which is unrevised at plus 2.2%.

Exports were the heaviest drag on the first quarter reflecting the strong dollar's effect on foreign demand.

Ironically, harsh winter conditions actually boosted the GDP in terms of increased consumption in that spending on utilities made up the second largest increase in personal consumption in the first quarter. 

Most troubling was an outright contraction in business spending and an abrupt slowing in consumer spending. The biggest spending cost was mandatory spending on healthcare in the form of Obamacare.

Price data, reflecting lower energy prices, are soft with the GDP price index at minus 0.1%. Prices were also soft in the fourth quarter at an unrevised plus 0.1%.
Details include an unwanted surge in inventories tied to lower demand and also possibly to shipment constraints tied to the quarter's West Coast port strike.

Imports, likely limited by the port strike, did pull down GDP but to a much lesser extent than the prior quarter. Imports are a subtraction in the GDP calculation.
Federal Reserve policy makers, in this afternoon's FOMC statement, may downplay first-quarter weakness as temporary.

Nevertheless, the complete lack of punch underway in early second-quarter indicators, together with the softness of the fourth quarter when there were no special factors not to mention the lack of inflationary pressures in the economy, offer plenty of fuel for the doves at the Fed who want to hold off the first signals of a rate increase.