NEW YORK - The Chicago Fed National Activity Index for March fell to negative 0.29 from a revised positive 0.07 reading in February, while the three-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3) declined to positive 0.05 in March from a revised positive 0.37 in February, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reported Thursday.

In March 2011, the index was positive 0.52, while the CFNAI-MA3 was positive 0.16 in that month.

The February index was originally reported as negative 0.09, while the February CFNAI-MA3 was first reported as positive 0.30.

The positive reading for the CFNAI-MA3 indicates national economic growth was near its historical trend, and suggests subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity in the coming year, the Chicago Fed said.

The CFNAI diffusion index slipped to positive 0.25 from positive 0.48 the month before.

The production indicators subtracted 0.13 in the month (compared to a contribution of 0.12 in the previous month), while employment-related indicators contributed 0.09 in the month, after providing a 0.16 contribution in February, the Fed said.

Consumption and housing-related data subtracted 0.28 in the month, after subtracting 0.24 the prior month, while sales, orders and inventories contributed 0.03 in the month, after adding 0.04 in February.

The index is a weighted average of 85 indicators of national economic activity. A zero value for the index indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth; negative values are associated with below-trend growth while positive values indicate above-trend growth.

Overall, 40 of the 85 indicators made positive contributions to the index in the month and 45 made negative contributions. While 33 indicators were better than the previous month, 6 of these still made negative contributions to the index. Also, 51 indicators deteriorated from February to March and one was flat.

The index was constructed using data available by April 19, with data for 51 of the 85 indicators having been published by then. The Fed said it used estimates for the missing data.

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