December 2019 CFNAI Super Index Moving Average Again Marginally Improved

The economy's rate of growth marginally improved based on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3 month moving (3MA) average - but the economy continues well below the historical trend rate of growth.

Analyst Opinion of the CFNAI This Month

The economy has slowed from its rate of growth in 2018.

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.

The three-month moving average of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) changed from -0.31 (originally reported as -0.25 last month) to -0.23


  • This index IS NOT accurate in real-time (see caveats below) - and it did miss the start of the 2007 recession.
  • The expectations from Econoday were -0.3 to +0.3 (consensus +0.15) - the actual was -0.35 for the single month index which is not used for economic forecasting.
  • This index is a rearview mirror of the economy.


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 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.

CFNAI Three Month Moving Average Showing Month-over-Month Change

The CFNAI is a weighted average of 85 indicators drawn from four broad categories of data: 1) production and income; 2) employment, unemployment, and hours; 3) personal consumption and housing, and 4) sales, orders, and inventories.

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