The Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index printed today close to its post-recession low for March at -.42 (vs. a consensus forecast of +.10). That puts the 3-month moving average at -.27, lower than during Q1 of 2014 when real GDP contracted. That’s consistent with the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracking model, which puts Q1 growth at zero.

That’s an ugly number. Federal Reserve officials are trying to Moonwalk away from their forecast of brisk recovery and higher interest rates. Speaking at a Bloomberg conference today, New York Fed President William C. Dudley sounded as if he were scripted by The Onion: “It will be important to determine whether the softness in the March labor report, or if it foreshadows a more substantial timing of normalization in the labor market than I currently anticipated. The timing of normalization remains uncertain because how wthe economy evolves is also uncertain. Now that we have an Adolescent Poetry Generator, a Postmodern Essay Generator, a Thomas Friedman column generator and a thesis generator, perhaps the software industry can devise a Federal Reserve official speech generator and save our public servants the trouble of leaving their offices.

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