Chicago Fed Index Suggests Continued Below-Trend Growth in Q2

By: Paul Kasriel | Wed, Jun 27, 2007
Print Email

The Chicago Fed publishes a national economic activity index each month that only the Chicago Fed's economic research department and I pay attention to. This index is not a leading one, but is a coincident one. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) is a weighted average of 85 existing monthly indicators of economic activity drawn from five broad categories: 1) output and income 2) employment, unemployment and hours 3) personal consumption, housing starts and sales 4) manufacturing and trade sales and 5) inventories and orders. This index is constructed to have an average value of zero and a standard deviation of one. Because economic activity tends toward trend growth rate over time, a positive index corresponds to growth above trend and a negative index corresponds to growth below trend. The 3-month moving average of the CFNAI in May was minus 0.20 - the ninth consecutive month in which it has been in negative territory. The CFNAI is suggesting that second-quarter real GDP growth will come in below-trend, which would mark the fifth consecutive quarter to do so. What is the trend of GDP growth? In the past 40 years, real GDP has grown at a compound annual rate of growth of 3.05%. So, the recent behavior of the CFNAI is pointing to sub-3% real GDP growth in Q2, which, if it were to occur, would be below what most forecasters (but not us) are currently expecting. The chart below contains the behavior of the CFNAI and quarter-to-quarter annualized real GDP growth, with the 3.05% trend rate of real GDP growth shown as the blue horizontal line.

Chart 1



Paul Kasriel

Author: Paul Kasriel

Paul L. Kasriel
Director of Economic Research
The Northern Trust Company
Economic Research Department
Positive Economic Commentary
"The economics of what is, rather than what you might like it to be."
50 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60675

Paul Kasriel

Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director of Economic Research in 2000. His economic and interest rate forecasts are used both internally and by clients. The accuracy of the Economic Research Department's forecasts has consistently been highly-ranked in the Blue Chip survey of about 50 forecasters over the years. To that point, Paul received the prestigious 2006 Lawrence R. Klein Award for having the most accurate economic forecast among the Blue Chip survey participants for the years 2002 through 2005. The accuracy of Paul's 2008 economic forecast was ranked in the top five of The Wall Street Journal survey panel of economists. In January 2009, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes cited Paul as one of the few who identified early on the formation of the housing bubble and foresaw the economic and financial market havoc that would ensue after the bubble inevitably burst. Through written commentaries containing his straightforward and often nonconsensus analysis of economic and financial market issues, Paul has developed a loyal following in the financial community. The Northern's economic website was listed as one of the top ten most interesting by The Wall Street Journal. Paul is the co-author of a book entitled Seven Indicators That Move Markets.

Paul began his career as a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He has taught courses in finance at the DePaul University Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Paul serves on the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Northern Trust Company. The information herein is based on sources which The Northern Trust Company believes to be reliable, but we cannot warrant its accuracy or completeness. Such information is subject to change and is not intended to influence your investment decisions.

Copyright © 2005-2012 The Northern Trust Company

All Images, XHTML Renderings, and Source Code Copyright ©