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Chicago Fed National Activity Index Declines in December

Led by declines in employment- and production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to 0.16 in December from 0.69 in November. Three of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index decreased from November, although three of the four categories also made positive contributions to the index in December.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, edged down to 0.33 in December from 0.36 in November, marking its fourth consecutive reading above zero. December’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was above its historical trend. The economic growth reflected in this level of the CFNAI-MA3 suggests limited inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.

The CFNAI Diffusion Index ticked down to 0.38 in December from 0.40 in November. Forty-seven of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in December, while 38 made negative contributions. Twenty-seven indicators improved from November to December, while 56 indicators deteriorated and two were unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, seven made negative contributions.

Employment-related indicators contributed 0.10 to the CFNAI in December, down from 0.35 in November. Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 74,000 in December after rising by 241,000 in November, but the unemployment rate decreased to 6.7 percent in December from 7 percent in the previous month.

Production-related indicators contributed 0.14 to the CFNAI in December, down from 0.36 in November. Industrial production increased 0.3 percent in December after rising 1.1 percent in November; and manufacturing output increased 0.4 percent in December after rising 0.6 percent in the previous month. The contribution from the sales, orders, and inventories category to the CFNAI was unchanged from November to December at 0.06.

The contribution from the consumption and housing category to the CFNAI moved down to -0.15 in December from -0.07 in November. Housing starts declined to 999,000 annualized units in December from 1,107,000 in November, and housing permits decreased to 986,000 annualized units in December from 1,017,000 in the previous month.

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