Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Fed National Activity Index’

Bob Bronson on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Bob Bronson on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index 

Courtesy of Doug Short 

Earlier today I posted some charts on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI). A few hours later I received an email from Bob Bronson, a market historian whose theory of market cycles — the Bronson Asset Allocation Cycle (BAAC) — I featured a few months ago.

The email included the annotated chart below with the following comment:

"While Doug Short, who does excellent work, may be reluctant to draw any conclusions from the down sloping all-data linear best-fit line, with the addition of the currently much more negatively sloped midline (line arrows) of the high-low volatility envelope, we’re prepared to claim that the sharply deteriorating growth rate combination pattern clearly shows the U.S. economy is still in the grip of an an ultimately deflationary economic Supercycle Bear Market Period Winter, which we quantify both fundamentally and technically and forecasted more than 12 years ago. Track record and explanatory documentation are available on request from Bob Bronson."

Bob, thanks for the kind words. Yes, I’m somewhat reluctant to make a double-dip recession forecast. However, I do see it as a distinct possibility. I’ll be tracking this index over the next several months, and I’ll occasionally revisit your visual forecast to see how the numbers compare.  


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A Perspective on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index

A Perspective on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index 

Courtesy of Doug Short 

Over the past few days I’ve been studying the Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index (CFNAI), 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.

I generated the first chart below from the historical data dating from March 1967. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, and the 3-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3), which is more useful for showing trends. I’ve also highlighted official recessions, with the latest bounded by the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s estimated end date. The official end, of course, is the provenance of the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, which often makes its call after a year or more from the start or end. 

The next chart highlights the -0.7 level. The latest Chicago Fed release explains:

"When the CFNAI-MA3 value moves below -0.70 following a period of economic expansion, there is an increasing likelihood that a recession has begun. Conversely, when the CFNAI-MA3 value moves above -0.70 following a period of economic contraction, there is an increasing likelihood that a recession has ended."

With the exception of the 1973-75 recession, the -0.7 level has coincided fairly closely with recession boundaries. The 1973-75 event was perhaps an outlier because of the rapid rise of inflation following the 1973 Oil Embargo. Otherwise a cross below -0.7 level has synchronized within a month or two of a recession start. A cross above the level has lagged recession ends by 2-4 months. 

Here’s a chart of the CFNAI without the MA3 overlay — for the purpose of highlighting the high inter-month volatility. Consider: the index has ranged from a high 2.57 to a low of -4.78 with a average monthly change of 0.59. That’s 8% of the entire index range!

In the final chart I’ve let Excel draw a linear regression through the CFNAI data series. The slope confirms the casual impression of the previous charts that National Activity, as a function of the 85 indicators in the index, has been declining since the late 1960s. I’m reluctant to draw any conclusions from the slope, but…
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