The Chicago Fed National Activity Index for March slumped to negative 0.23 from a revised positive 0.76 reading in February, while the three-month moving average (CFNAI-MA3) slid to negative 0.01 from a revised positive 0.12 in February, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reported Monday.

In March 2012, the index was negative 0.57, while the CFNAI-MA3 was positive 0.02 in that month.

The February index was originally reported as positive 0.44, while the CFNAI-MA3 was first reported as positive 0.09.

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

The CFNAI diffusion index decreased to negative 0.02 from a revised positive 0.13 the month before, first reported as positive 0.14.

The production indicators added 0.01 in the month (compared to an addition of 0.47 in the previous month), while employment-related indicators subtracted 0.06 in the month, after adding 0.31 in February, the Fed said.

Consumption and housing-related data subtracted 0.14 in the month, after subtracting 0.14 the prior month, while sales, orders and inventories took away 0.02 in the month, after contributing 0.13 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.

The index was constructed using data available by April 18, with data for 51 of the 85 indicators having been published by then. The Fed said it used estimates for the missing data.

Overall, 28 of the 85 indicators made positive contributions to the index in the month and 57 made negative contributions. While 15 indicators were better than the previous month, 6 of these still made negative contributions to the index. Also, 70 deteriorated from February to March.

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