There’s no doubt the economy is laboring through a tough stretch. The big question is whether it gets worse before it gets better.

Bet on growth speeding up. The economy has repeatedly started a new year off slowly since the U.S. exited its last recession in mid-2009. And growth has usually picked up in the spring.

The same pattern seems ready to re-emerge, and early hints might come this week from the first batch of reports on how the economy is performing in March.

Gross domestic product, the official scorebook for the economy, is likely to grow a lackluster 1.5% in the first quarter, according to the latest MarketWatch roundup of economists. Economists then see GDP accelerating to a 2.5% annual pace in the spring.

The main difference between this year and last? There’s no big tax cuts or spending increases on tap by the powers that be in Washington. The economy got a big boost last spring through the generous hand of Congress and the White House.

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