Getting that old sinking feeling again? Youre not alone.

The US economy barely stayed afloat in the first three months of the year, data show, the third year in a row that growth has faltered in the first quarter. Forecasters are duly chopping their growth estimates for the period, casting doubt on the economys underlying strength.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Friday lowered its estimate for gross domestic product between January and March to 0.1 percent (see chart below). Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts peg growth for the quarter at 0.2 percent. Macroeconomic Advisers puts it at 0.7 percent. Capital Economics, normally fairly chipper on the countrys economic prospects, forecasts annualized GDP in the first quarter of 1 percent.

The main drags on growth include slower personal consumption, decreasing wholesale inventories, a widening trade deficit and the ongoing hit to the energy sector from low oil prices.

Following on from the 1.4 percent gain in the final quarter of last year, that suggests the US economy lost more momentum and could be headed for a full-blown downturn, said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist with the research firm, in a note.