Chicago Fed: "Index suggests economic growth moderated in August"

"Index points to a pickup in economic growth in July." This is the headline for this morning's release of the Chicago Fed's National Activity Index, and here is the opening paragraph from the report:

Led by declines in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) decreased to a neutral value in August from +0.29 in July. Three of the four broad categories of indicators used to construct the index made positive contributions in August, but three categories deteriorated from July. The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, moved up to +0.01 in August from –0.08 in July. [more]

Background on the CFNAI

The Chicago Fed's National Activity Index (CFNAI) is a monthly indicator designed to gauge overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure. It is a composite of 85 monthly indicators as explained in this background PDF file on the Chicago Fed's website. The index is constructed so a zero value for the index indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth. Negative values indicate below-average growth, and positive values indicate above-average growth.

The first chart below shows the recent behavior of the index since 2007. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, together with the 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3), which is more useful as an indicator of the actual trend for coincident economic activity.