Today’s release of the Chicago Federal Reserve National Activity Index (CFNAI) indicated that national economic activity continued to improve in January with only the "personal consumption and housing" component showing significant weakness.
The CFNAI is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity collected into four overall categories of “production and income”, “employment, unemployment and income”, “personal consumption and housing” and “sales, orders and inventories”.
The Chicago Fed regards a value of zero for the total index as indicating that the national is expanding at its historical trend rate while a negative value indicate below average growth.
A value at or below -0.70 for the three month moving average of the national activity index (CFNAI-MA3) indicates that the national economy has either just entered or continues in recession.
It’s important to note that at -0.16 the current three month average index value is indicating very weak growth after several recent months of intermittent recessionary and near recessionary growth.
The "personal consumption and housing" component, on the other hand, is continuing to show very weak results and at -.45, is at a level only marginally better than the worst levels seen this cycle.
The following charts (click for full-screen interactive zoom-able version) plot the national activity index as well all of its four components.