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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chicago Fed Index Shows Small Improvement
by Tom Moeller   October 24, 2011

Though it improved m/m, the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index (CFNAI) for September remained under pressure. The figure rose to -0.22 from -0.59 in August, which was weaker than reported last month. The three-month moving average remained depressed at -0.21 for September, up slightly from -0.28 during August. The figures have been negative for most of this year. During the last ten years there has been an 83% correlation between the Chicago Fed Index and the q/q change in real GDP.

The Personal Consumption & Housing component of the index improved sharply m/m to its highest level since early-2010, though it remained negative. The other three index components turned into positive territory but each remained weak. Thirty-nine of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the index in September, while 46 made negative contributions.

The CFNAI is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity. It is constructed to have an average value of zero and a standard deviation of one. Since economic activity tends toward trend growth rate over time, a positive index reading corresponds to growth above trend and a negative index reading corresponds to growth below trend. During August, 41 of the 85 component series made a positive contribution to the overall index while 44 made a negative contribution.

The Chicago Federal Reserve figures are available in Haver's SURVEYS database.

The Outlook for the U.S. Economy and Economic Policy is Friday's speech by Fed Vice Chair Janet L. Yellen and it is available here.

Chicago Federal Reserve Bank Sep Aug Jul Sep'10 2010 2009 2008
CFNAI -0.22 -0.59 0.19 -0.27 -0.02 -1.63 -1.94
 3-Month Moving Average -0.21 -0.28 -0.20 -0.15 -- -- --
  Personal Consumption & Housing -0.30 -0.38 -0.33 -0.33 -0.34 -0.38 -0.26
  Employment, Unemployment & Hours 0.04 -0.12 0.13 -0.04 0.03 -0.81 -0.67
  Production & Income 0.02 -0.06 0.31 0.01 0.22 -0.27 -0.70
  Sales, Orders & Inventories 0.01 -0.03 0.08 0.08 0.07 -0.16 -0.31
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