Chicago Fed: Economic Growth Remains Below Average In July

by: James Picerno

The U.S. economy continued to expand in July but at a rate that's "below its historical trend," according to today's update of The Chicago Fed National Activity Index. "The index's three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased to -0.15 in July from -0.24 in June, marking its fifth consecutive reading below zero," the bank advised in a press release. The modest improvement (slightly better than my econometric projection) puts CFNAI-MA3 at the highest level since February.

CFNAI-MA3 offers "a more consistent picture of national economic growth," the Chicago Fed advises. By that standard, the U.S. economy is still expanding at a pace that's only slightly below its historical trend as of last month. (A zero reading for CFNAI-MA3 equates with economic conditions that match the historical trend.)

Based on the guidelines published for this index, today's update also shows that recession risk was low in July. A CFNAI-MA3 value below -0.70 after a period of economic expansion "indicates an increasing likelihood that a recession has begun," according to the Chicago Fed. In other words, last month's macro profile remained convincingly in the growth camp. That's in line with yesterday's update, which also tells us that business cycle risk remains low, according to the latest economic and financial indicators.