Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicago Fed: Economic Activity Moved Lower in December

by Bill McBride on 1/28/2010 08:55:00 AM

From the Chicago Fed: Index shows economic activity moved lower in December

Led by declines in employment-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index decreased to –0.61 in December, down from –0.39 in November. Three of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index moved lower, although both the production and income category and the sales, orders, and inventories category made positive contributions.
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In contrast to the monthly index, the index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased slightly to –0.61 in December from –0.68 in November. December’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was below its historical trend; but the level of activity remained in a range historically consistent with the early stages of a recovery following a recession.
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:
"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. ... The critical question is: how early does the CFNAI-MA3 reveal this turning point? For four of the last five recessions, this happened within five months of the business cycle trough."
Although the CFNAI-MA3 improved slightly in December, the index is still negative. According to Chicago Fed, it is still early to call the official recession over.

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