Chicago Fed National Activity Index Goes Negative for March

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The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is out with its National Activity Index for the month of March. Unfortunately, this is yet one more reading in negative territory. The index fell to -0.23, versus a positive reading of 0.76 in February. March’s weakness also managed to pull the three-month average from February’s 0.12 down to negative territory at -0.01.

A negative reading signals that broader national economic activity is below its historical trend. One change noted was that production indicators are still contributing to growth, but only at 0.01, and well under the 0.47 in February. Employment was a real drag and this fell to -0.06, versus February’s above-zero reading of 0.31. Another report from sales, orders and inventories fell into negative territory as well, at -0.02, from a prior 0.13.

Despite this being from a regional Federal Reserve bank, it is a national survey. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index is issued monthly to measure overall economic activity and inflationary pressure. It is a weighted average of 85 existing monthly indicators of national economic activity.

Despite this being yet another negative reading, stocks are not budging and futures are up. The DJIA is up almost 50 points at 14,520 and the S&P 500 is up 6.50 at 1,554 so far this Monday morning.