National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) Background
The National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI) and adjusted NFCI (ANFCI) are each constructed to have an average value of zero and a standard deviation of one over a sample period extending back to 1971. Positive values of the NFCI have been historically associated with tighter-than-average financial conditions, while negative values have been historically associated with looser-than-average financial conditions. Similarly, positive values of the ANFCI have been historically associated with financial conditions that are tighter than what would be typically suggested by prevailing macroeconomic conditions, while negative values have been historically associated with the opposite. For details, see “Introducing the Chicago Fed’s New Adjusted National Financial Conditions Index.”
More information on the NFCI and ANFCI can be found in "Monitoring Financial Stability: A Financial Conditions Index Approach."
The three subindexes of the NFCI (risk, credit and leverage) allow for a more detailed examination of the movements in the NFCI. Like the NFCI, each is constructed to have an average value of zero and a standard deviation of one over a sample period extending back to 1973. The risk subindex captures volatility and funding risk in the financial sector; the credit subindex is composed of measures of credit conditions; and the leverage subindex consists of debt and equity measures. Increasing risk, tighter credit conditions and declining leverage are consistent with increases in the NFCI. Therefore, positives values for each subindex have been historically associated with a tighter–than–average corresponding aspect of financial conditions, while negative values indicate the opposite.
More information on the NFCI subindexes can be found in "Diagnosing the Financial System: Financial Conditions and Financial Stress," published in the International Journal of Central Banking.
The nonfinancial leverage subindex of the NFCI best exemplifies how leverage can serve as an early warning signal for financial stress and its potential impact on economic growth. The positive weight assigned to both the household and nonfinancial business leverage measures in this NFCI subindex make it characteristic of the feedback process between the financial and nonfinancial sectors of the economy often referred to as the “financial accelerator." Increasingly tighter financial conditions are associated with rising risk premiums and declining asset values. The net worth of households and nonfinancial firms is, thus, reduced at the same time that credit tightens. This leads to a period of deleveraging (i.e., debt reduction) across the financial and nonfinancial sectors of the economy and ultimately to lower economic activity.
Source: The detrended credit-to-GDP ratio (shown in standard deviation units) is from Chicago Fed staff calculations based on data from Haver Analytics.
More information on the nonfinancial leverage subindex can be found in "Detecting Early Signs of Financial Instability."