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The Fed Tells All
Volume 40, Number 4 - July/August 2016

The New York Fed

The New York Fed serves the Second Federal Reserve Dis trict. This includes New York State; 12 northern counties of New Jersey; Fairfield County, Conn.; Puerto Rico; and the Virgin Islands. Per its website (

In addition to responsibilities the New York Fed shares in common with the other Reserve Banks, the New York Fed has several unique responsibilities, including conducting open market operations, intervening in foreign exchange markets, and storing monetary gold for foreign central banks, governments and international agencies. Foremost among its functions is the implementation of monetary policy, one of the three missions of the New York Fed. The other two are supervision and regulation , and international operations .

It’s the New York Fed that intervenes in foreign exchange markets to achieve U.S. monetary goals for the dollar.

As behooves its location in the city with the National Stock Exchange, “Open market operations” is related to the securities industry in all its glorious (and sometimes nefarious) permutations.

The New York Fed provides information to the public in various ways. It uses data visualization to provide accessible information at In addition to regional data such as New York City School System spending per pupil, some other information at this site includes “Eight Different Faces of the Labor Department” and “Change in Home Prices” (across the country, dated February 2016).

In April 2016, the New York Fed introduced its Nowcasting Report. For an explanation of what this is all about, go to A Nowcast is an economic tool that allows you to see what is happening in the economy in almost real time. It alleviates the problem of data that is too old or too overwhelming or “noisy.” Its report looks at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in real time!

Another unique responsibility of the New York Fed is its gold storage responsibility. Definitely worth a visit (it’s on the tour), the vault is a gold respository for other countries, their central banks, international organizations, and also the United States. It’s the world’s largest gold repository. Wonder what ever happened to Fort Knox?

The Chicago Fed

The Chicago Fed ( serves the 7th Federal Reserve District, which is made up of five states, including all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This district covers a large percentage of the nation’s manufacturing base—especially capital goods and consumer durables—as well as agriculture production and food processing. As such, the focus of this Fed is mainly on the data of those sectors of the economy.

Unique to this Reserve District is the Chicago Fed National Activity Index, (CFNAI;, a monthly index designed to gauge overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure. According to the Nov 2013 “Background on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index,” the index “provides a single summary measure of a common factor in these national economic data. As such, historical movements in this Chicago Fed index closely track periods of economic expansion and contraction, as well as periods of increasing and decreasing inflationary pressure.”

In other words, this index might indicate recession or inflation. There are several caveats within the background document, which states, “The CFNAI is a coincident indi cator of economic expansions and contractions.” It also notes, “Research studies by economists at Harvard University, Princeton University, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago have shown that the CFNAI often provides early indications of business cycle turning points and changes in inflationary pressure.”

The CFNAI originated in the late 1990s and early 2000s and is released on the web toward the end of each calendar month. Once you’ve figured out how to interpret this index, it might keep you and your organization on your toes about impending inflation possibilities. As with most Fed data and graphs, there are a host of downloadable options for using the information, as well as much explanatory information.

One more “cool” product of the Chicago Fed is the recently introduced new iPad app called The Fed Museum. It explains in an “interactive and engaging way” how the Federal Reserve System works. Take a look and show the kids (or students!).

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Susan Fingerman is mostly retired but is keeping her hand in as an online librarian with the American Public University System ( She also writes the For the Common Good column published five times a year in the Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research.


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