Friday, December 21, 2012

Earlier: Chicago Fed National Activity Index improves, Kansas City Fed Mfg Survey shows contraction

by Bill McBride on 12/21/2012 06:51:00 PM

A couple of reports from earlier this morning:

• The Chicago Fed released the national activity index (a composite index of other indicators): Economic Activity Increased in November

Led by improvements in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) increased to +0.10 in November from –0.64 in October. Two of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index increased from October, but only the production and income category made a positive contribution to the index in November.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased from –0.59 in October to –0.20 in November—its ninth consecutive reading below zero. November’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was below its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.
This graph shows the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (three month moving average) since 1967.

Chicago Fed National Activity Index Click on graph for larger image.

This suggests economic activity increased, but growth was still below trend in November.

According to the Chicago Fed:
What is the National Activity Index? The index is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity drawn from four broad categories of data: 1) production and income; 2) employment, unemployment, and hours; 3) personal consumption and housing; and 4) sales, orders, and inventories.

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.
• From the Kansas City Fed: Tenth District Manufacturing Activity Declined Further
Tenth District manufacturing activity declined further in December, though by a smaller amount than in October or November. Factories’ production expectations were somewhat more optimistic than last month, but a higher share of firms plan to decrease employment in coming months. Approximately half of all contacts cited fiscal policy uncertainty as having impacted their hiring decisions. Price indexes mostly increased, particularly for future raw materials, with the increase driven heavily by food prices.

The month-over-month composite index was -2 in December, up slightly from -6 in November and -4 in October ... The employment index decreased from 22 to 13 after rebounding solidly last month.
...
“We saw factory activity decline for the third straight month, which many firms blamed on the uncertainty created by the fiscal cliff talks", said [Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]. "Contacts still plan modest output expansion in the first half of 2012, but they now expect their employment to fall, before recovering later in the year.”
This showed contraction, but the index was slightly better than expected.

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