Last year was a weak one for the economy, but it likely ended on a hopeful note.
A survey by FactSet says the economy likely grew at an annual rate of 3 percent in the October-December quarter. The gain would represent modest improvement from this summer, when the economy grew just 1.8 percent. But even with the strong finish, economists believe the economy expanded just 1.7 percent for the whole year.
The Commerce Department will release the actual fourth-quarter figure later this morning.
Growth is expected to slow in the first three months of this year. A key reason is wages have failed to keep pace with inflation. That likely will force many consumers to pull back on spending after splurging over the holidays.
Consumer spending is important because it makes up 70 percent of economic activity.
Businesses are also expected to reduce spending in the first quarter after building up their stockpiles in the final months of 2011.