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Chicago Fed National Activity Index Decreases in March

Led by declines in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to +0.20 in March from +0.53 in February. Two of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index made positive contributions to the index in March, and two of the four categories decreased from February.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased to a neutral reading in March from –0.14 in February, marking its third consecutive non-positive value. March’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was at 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 increased to +0.04 in March from –0.14 in February. Fifty-one of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in March, while 34 made negative contributions. Thirty-three indicators improved from February to March, while 51 indicators deteriorated and one was unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, nine made negative contributions.

Production-related indicators contributed +0.21 to the CFNAI in March, down from +0.54 in February. Industrial production increased 0.7 percent in March after rising 1.2 percent in February, and manufacturing output moved up 0.5 percent in March after increasing 1.4 percent in the previous month.

Employment-related indicators contributed +0.14 to the CFNAI in March, up from +0.07 in February. Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 320,900 in March from

336,900 in February. Civilian employment increased 0.3 percent in March after roughly no change in February, while nonfarm payrolls increased 0.1 percent in March for the second straight month.

The contribution from the consumption and housing category to the CFNAI moved up to –0.13 in March from –0.17 in February. Housing starts increased to 946,000 annualized units in March from 920,000 in February, but housing permits declined to 990,000 annualized units in March from 1,014,000 in the previous month. The contribution from the sales, orders, and inventories category to the CFNAI decreased to –0.02 in March from +0.08 in February.

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