James Picerno

About the Author James Picerno

James Picerno is a financial journalist who has been writing about finance and investment theory for more than twenty years. He writes for trade magazines read by financial professionals and financial advisers. Over the years, he’s written for the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Bloomberg Markets, Mutual Funds, Modern Maturity, Investment Advisor, Reuters, and his popular finance blog, The CapitalSpectator.

Chicago Fed: US Economic Growth Eased In November

US economic growth in November remained below the historical trend rate for the second month in a row, according to this morning’s update of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. Revised data for the benchmark’s three-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3) slipped to a negative 0.20 reading last month–down slightly from -0.18 in the previous month and the lowest since March.

Although US economic activity decelerated in November, CFNAI-MA3’s current reading is still above the -0.70 tipping point that marks the start of recessions, according to Chicago Fed guidelines.

Looking at the numbers before averaging, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index’s monthly value weakened to -0.30, the lowest since May. The monthly numbers are noisy, however, which is why the Chicago Fed recommends focusing on the three-month average for monitoring the business cycle. By that standard, the economy is still trending positive, albeit at a relatively subdued pace.


Analyzing the updated CFNAI-MA3 data with a probit model shows that the probability is low (roughly 8%) that a recession started in November. The current risk estimate in the chart below is based on a probit regression that reviews the historical record of NBER’s business cycle dates in context with CFNAI-MA3. The low-recession-risk estimate aligns with last week’s update of business-cycle risk via The Capital Spectator’s proprietary indexes.


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