Economic activity in the U.S. contracted at a 0.5% pace in the third quarter, according to government data.
The third quarter saw an abrupt turn from GDP growth of 2.8% in the second quarter, although analysts said that figure was skewed by a surge in exports and consumer spending boosted by one-time tax rebates.
The report on gross domestic product (GDP) for the July-September quarter is believed to be the start of a steep downturn for the world's largest economy that intensified in the past few months.
Many economists say the downturn in the fourth quarter could be much worse, reflecting a credit crunch and ongoing woes in housing and manufacturing.
The first estimate for fourth-quarter GDP is due in late January.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008