Chicago Fed: "Index suggests slower, but still above-average growth in August"
"Index suggests slower, but still above-average growth in August." This is the headline for this morning's release of the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index, and here is the opening paragraph from the report:
Led by some further moderation in the growth of production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) declined to +0.79 in August from +2.54 in July. Two of the four broad categories of indicators used to construct the index made positive contributions in August, but all four categories decreased from July. The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, moved down to +3.05 in August from +4.23 in July. [Download report]
Background on the CFNAI
The Chicago Fed's National Activity Index (CFNAI) is a monthly indicator designed to gauge overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure. It is a composite of 85 monthly indicators as explained in this background PDF file on the Chicago Fed's website. The index is constructed so a zero value for the index indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth. Negative values indicate below-average growth, and positive values indicate above-average growth.
The first chart below shows the recent behavior of the index since 2007. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, together with the 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3), which is more useful as an indicator of the actual trend for coincident economic activity.
For a broad historical context, here is the complete CFNAI historical series dating from March 1967.
The next chart highlights the -0.7 level. The Chicago Fed explains:
When the CFNAI-MA3 value moves below -0.70 following a period of economic expansion, there is an increasing likelihood that a recession has begun. Conversely, when the CFNAI-MA3 value moves above -0.70 following a period of economic contraction, there is an increasing likelihood that a recession has ended.