December 2018 CFNAI Super Index Moving Average Improved?

The economy's rate of growth declined based on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3 month moving (3MA) average marginally improved - and economic growth remained above the historical trend rate of growth. The problem with this month's release is the the government shutdown affected the data.

Analyst Opinion of the CFNAI This Month

I would ignore this index as the government shutdown has affected many inputs into this report.

The single month index which is not used for economic forecasting, and unfortunately is what the CFNAI headlines. Economic predictions are based on the 3 month moving average. The single month index historically is very noisy and the 3 month moving average would be the way to view this index in any event.

There was no revision to last month's data.

The bottom line is the economy is doing better than average in times of economic expansion..

The three month moving average of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) changed from +0.12 (originally reported as +0.12 last month) to +0.12


  • This index IS NOT accurate in real time (see caveats below) - and it did miss the start of the 2007 recession.
  • Expectations from Econoday was 0.00 to 0.20 (consensus +0.15) - the actual was +0.27 for the single month index which is not used for economic forecasting.
  • This index is a rear view mirror of the economy.


z cfnai2.PNG

A value of zero for the index would indicate that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth and that a level below -0.7 would be indicating a recession was likely underway. Econintersect uses the three-month trend because the index is very noisy (volatile).

CFNAI Three Month Moving Average (blue line) with Historical Recession Line (red line)

As the 3 month index is the trend line, the overall trend for the last few years is upward - but the short term trend is down As stated: this index only begins to show what is happening in the economy after many months of revision following the index's first release.

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