The numbers: The Chicago Fed’s national activity index, which is designed to gauge overall U.S. economic activity, increased to 0.52 in December from a revised 0.31 in the prior month.
The index’s three-month moving average, which smooths out volatility, inched up to 0.61 from 0.59 in November.
A zero value in the index indicates the national economy is expanding at its historic trend rate of growth.
The November reading was revised from an initial estimate of 0.27.
What happened: The Chicago Fed index is a weighted average of 85 indicators. Fifty-three of the indicators made positive contributions to the index in December, up from 45 in the prior month.
The factory sector boosted the index in December, while consumption indicators weakened. Production-related indicators contributed 0.44 to the index in December up from 0.13 in the prior month.
Employment-related indicators contributed 0.13 to the index. The personal consumption and housing indicators subtracted 0.09 in December.
Big picture: Despite the gain in December, the index is still well below the 1.01 reading in October.
It shows the U.S. economy is finding it hard to grow as COVID-19 cases sweep across the country. The data also fits with a picture of a healthy factory sector and a struggling service economy.
Market reaction: Stock-index futures traded mixed on Monday, with tech-related shares surging while futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.75% were lower. The Dow had a weekly gain of 1.6% last week.