Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicago Fed: April National Activity Index

by Bill McBride on 5/26/2009 12:12:00 PM

Note: the title for the Chicago Fed report says "activity improved in April". That is not accurate - the index improved, but economic activity is still declining, just at a slower pace.

From the Chicago Fed: Index shows economic activity improved in April

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index was –2.06 in April, up from –3.36 in March. All four broad categories of indicators improved in April, but each continued to make a negative contribution to the index. The index’s three-month moving average in April reached its highest level since October 2008.
Chicago Fed National Activity Index Click on table for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (three month moving average) since 1967. According to the Chicago Fed:

"[T]he Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI), is a weighted average of 85 existing, monthly indicators of national economic activity. The CFNAI provides a single, summary measure of a common factor in these national economic data ...

[T]he CFNAI-MA3 appears to be a useful guide for identifying whether the economy has slipped into and out of a recession. This is useful because the definitive recognition of business cycle turning points usually occurs many months after the event. For example, even though the 1990-91 recession ended in March 1991, the NBER business cycle dating committee did not officially announce the recession’s end until 21 months later in December 1992. ...

When the economy is coming out of a recession, the CFNAI-MA3 moves significantly into positive territory a few months after the official NBER date of the trough. Specifically, after the onset of a recession, when the index first crosses +0.20, the recession has ended according to the NBER business cycle measures."

Note: this is based on only a few recessions, but this is one of the indicators to watch for when the recession ends. Obviously not yet!