National business activity growth slowed for March, according to a Chicago Federal Reserve National Activity Index released (link opens as PDF) today. 

Based on a weighted average of 85 different indicators, the Chicago Fed Index provides an overall picture of our nation's economy. An above-zero reading denotes economic expansion, while a negative number implies contraction.

After clocking in at a revised 0.53 for February, this month's report puts business activity at 0.20. Although the month-to-month dip seems stark, analysts had expected a 0.20 reading. 

Chicago Fed National Activity Index Chart

From a longer-term perspective, the index's three-month moving average pointed to more positivity. From a revised -0.14 reading for February, the latest three-month moving average clocked in at an even 0.00 (in other words, on par with historical trends). 

According to the Chicago Federal Reserve, production-related indicators provided the main pull for March's index decline. Industrial production edged up just 0.7%, compared to 1.2% for February, while March manufacturing grew 0.5% after jumping 1.4% the month before.

Employment, consumption, and housing indicators all showed positive growth (or at least less contraction) from February to March.


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