April 2017 CFNAI Super Index Moving Average Significantly Improved

The economy’s significantly improved based on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3 month moving (3MA) average – and economic growth is well above the historical trend rate of growth.

Analyst Opinion of the CFNAI This Month

The single month index which is not used for economic forecasting which 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.

In the table below, see the three-month rolling average for the last 6 months – it had been staying within a very tight range around the trend rate of growth of zero – but note that this month, it completely left this range.

What is the implications of this jump? I will wait until next month to comment as this index suffers from significant backward revision.

The three month moving average of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) improved from +0.03 (originally reported as +0.03 last month) to +0.03.


  • This index IS NOT accurate in real time (see caveats below) – and it did miss the start of the 2007 recession.
  • Expectations from Bloomberg / Econoday was 0.01 to 0.25 (consensus 0.1) – the actual was +0.49 for the single month index which is not used for economic forecasting.
  • This index is a rear view 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 trend is mixed or flat. 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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    Author: Travis Esquivel

    Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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