Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI)
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) is a monthly index designed to gauge overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure. The CFNAI is released at 8:30 a.m. ET on scheduled days, normally toward the end of each calendar month.
Latest CFNAI Release
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) was +0.16 in February, up from –0.33 in January.
The data through February were unlikely to have been affected much by the Covid-19 outbreak. Economic data for March will be incorporated in the next CFNAI released on April 20, 2020.
The CFNAI is a weighted average of 85 existing monthly indicators of national economic activity. It is constructed to have an average value of zero and a standard deviation of one. Since economic activity tends toward trend growth rate over time, a positive index reading corresponds to growth above trend and a negative index reading corresponds to growth below trend.
The 85 economic indicators that are included in the CFNAI are drawn from four broad categories of data: production and income; employment, unemployment, and hours; personal consumption and housing; and sales, orders, and inventories. Each of these data series measures some aspect of overall macroeconomic activity. The derived index provides a single, summary measure of a factor common to these national economic data.
The CFNAI corresponds to the index of economic activity developed by James Stock of Harvard University and Mark Watson of Princeton University in an article, "Forecasting Inflation," published in the Journal of Monetary Economics in 1999. The idea behind their approach is that there is some factor common to all of the various inflation indicators, and it is this common factor, or index, that is useful for predicting inflation. Research has found that the CFNAI provides a useful gauge on current and future economic activity and inflation in the United States.