The US economy expanded at the slowest rate in a year in February, according to this morning’s update of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. The three-month moving average of this business cycle benchmark (CFNAI-MA3) decelerated to -0.08 last month vs. +0.26 in January. Last month’s pace is the slowest reading since Feb. 2014 for the CFNAI-MA3 data. As a result, the US economic trend slipped to a slightly below-trend pace for the first time in 12 months.
Keep in mind that only negative values below -0.70 for CFNAI-MA3 indicate elevated risk that a recession has started, according to guidelines published by the Chicago Fed. By that standard, recession risk remains low. That said, the latest dip for CFNAI-MA3 squeezes the margin of safety a bit relative to recent history.
Overall, there are still few signs of recession risk as of last month, as shown by The Capital Spectator’s latest Economic Trend analysis. As detailed in last weeks’ update, “February was a rough month in several corners of the US economy, but business cycle risk remains low overall when measured across a broad set of indicators on a trend basis.” Today’s CFNAI-MA3 release still aligns with the current view that US economic growth, although challenged lately, continued to post a moderate degree of forward momentum last month.