Economic activity improved in July but still was under historical trend. The Chicago Fed's national activity index came in at minus 0.13 vs June's revised minus 0.34. Despite the improvement in July, the 3-month average fell but only slightly to minus 0.21 from June's revised minus 0.18. This is the fifth straight sub-zero reading for the average. Production is the only one of 4 components that made a contribution in the month, though the drag from the other 3 eased.
Highlights for production include the 0.6 percent rise in industrial production where the gain for durable consumer goods is especially strong. Consumption & housing saw improvement in permits. The employment component, which had been a positive factor in June, is now slightly below zero following a slight step backward for the report's civilian employment measure and a slight tick upward in the unemployment rate. The report's 4th component, sales/orders/inventories, is just barely on the negative side.