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Chicago Fed National Activity Index Falls in April

Led by declines in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to –0.32 in April from +0.34 in March. Two of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index made negative contributions to the index in April, and two of the four categories decreased from March.

The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased to +0.19 in April from +0.04 in March, marking its second consecutive reading above zero and its highest value since November 2013. April’s CFNAI-MA3 suggests that growth in national economic activity was slightly 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, which is also a three-month moving average, increased to +0.18 in April from +0.08 in March. Thirty-four of the 85 individual indicators made positive contributions to the CFNAI in April, while 51 made negative contributions. Thirty-seven indicators improved from March to April, while 47 indicators deteriorated and one was unchanged. Of the indicators that improved, 15 made negative contributions.

Production-related indicators contributed –0.37 to the CFNAI in April, down from +0.27 in March. Manufacturing production decreased 0.4 percent in April after rising 0.7 percent in March, and manufacturing capacity utilization decreased to 76.4 percent in April from 76.9 percent in the previous month.

Employment-related indicators contributed +0.17 to the CFNAI in April, up from +0.15 in March. The unemployment rate decreased to 6.3 percent in April from 6.7 percent in March, and nonfarm payrolls increased 0.2 percent in April after increasing 0.1 percent in the previous month. The sales, orders, and inventories category made a neutral contribution to the CFNAI in April, up slightly from –0.01 in March.

The contribution from the consumption and housing category to the CFNAI moved down to –0.12 in April from –0.07 in March. Consumption indicators, on balance, declined, pushing the category’s contribution lower. However, housing starts increased to 1,072,000 annualized units in April from 947,000 in March, and housing permits increased to 1,080,000 annualized units in April from 1,000,000 in the previous month.

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