US gdp
A vessel with the Mediterranean Shipping Company docks at the Port of New Orleans before crews load and unload consumer products, June 23, 2010. Reuters/Sean Gardner

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday, revising down its initial estimate of a 3.2 percent increase in the nation's economic performance.

The drop in fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth was largely due to a smaller-than-expected boost from Americans buying big-ticket items such as autos.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, slowed to a 2.6 percent rise from 3.3 percent in the third quarter. Export, inventory accumulation and government spending also contributed to the downward revision in GDP.

Capital Economics' Paul Ashworth now expects the first-quarter 2014 GDP growth to be close to 2.0 percent. "Once the weather effects begin to unwind in the second quarter, however, we would anticipate a pickup in GDP growth to nearer 3 percent over the remaining three quarters of this year," Ashworth said in a note.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, which has been trimming the amount of money it is injecting into the economy through monthly bond purchases, views the recent soft patch as a cold weather-related temporary phase. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen told lawmakers on Thursday that it will take a "significant" change in the outlook for the economy to prompt the central bank to consider pausing or changing the pace of tapering.