U.S. Economy - National Activity Index

Key Facts

  • combines 85 economic indicators from 4 categories
  • published monthly

Summary

The economy and the markets are only loosely related but ultimately headed towards a common destination. Therefore economic indicators help investors anticipate the future.

Economic health is a major concern for the U.S. government. Therefore, the Federal Reserve Bank employs more than 300 Ph.D. economists to research and analyze the U.S. economy. As part of their work, they provide data and indicators to the public. The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index (“CFNAI”) is a coincident economic indicator, combining 85 economic measures into a single monthly value. The CFNAI draws its indicators from 4 broad categories: Consumption, production, employment, and sales.

A value of zero for the CFNAI is associated with the U.S. economy expanding at its historical average rate of growth. Further, values above zero indicate above-average growth, and values below zero indicate below-average growth.

To smooth out the indicator, we typically apply a 3-months moving average. Following a period of economic expansion, a CFNAI-MA3 below -0.7 has historically been a leading indicator of a recession.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis publishes the CFNAI, along with more than 600,000 other time series, on their economic data site, nicknamed “FRED.”

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago Fed National Activity Index [CFNAI], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.