Chicago Fed's National Activity Index at -0.21

A snapshot of the U.S. economic landscape says growth fell below its historic trends in August.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's National Activity Index--a weighted average of 85 indicators of the U.S. economy--fell to -0.21 in August from +0.26 in July. Any reading below zero points to below-average growth.

The decline was led by the production-related subindex, which tumbled to -0.17 last month from +0.24 for the prior month. Manufacturing production fell 0.4% in August after rising 0.7% in July, while manufacturing capacity utilization declined to 77.2% from 77.6% over the same span. The subindexes for sales and consumption ticked slightly higher, while employment-related indicators remained flat.

Despite the monthly number's slip into negative territory, the three-month moving average, designed to smooth out volatility, continued to signal growth, despite falling to +0.07 in August from +0.20 in July. It marked the sixth straight month that the reading was above zero.