January 14, 2020 / 8:59 PM / 7 days ago

Trump administration to change economic data release procedures: Bloomberg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration plans to put in place new procedures governing the release of market-sensitive economic data that would hinder news organizations from preparing stories in advance under embargo, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg said the changes could extend to the removal of computers from a government “lockup” room used by media and that an announcement could come as soon as this week.

Media organizations, including Bloomberg and Reuters News, send reporters to data “lockups” to prepare stories in advance of release, with the government controlling a communications switch to prevent an inadvertent early release. The system is in place to allow media outlets to report the often complicated and extensive data accurately and with better context than if it were released “live.”

The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the arm of the department that handles the monthly jobs report, could not be immediately reached. Spokespeople for the two main Commerce Department agencies that produce economic data also could not immediately be reached.

Federal agencies in the past have altered, or proposed altering, their release of potentially market-moving data in order to prevent the possibility that some investors could get earlier access, and thereby profit by selling or buying stocks, bonds or other securities ahead using that advance knowledge.

Under the Obama administration in 2012 the Labor Department proposed changing the lockup procedures by requiring media outlets to use government-issued computers and not their own. News outlets fought the plan, ultimately successfully.

“It would imperil the ability of news organizations to provide such data to the public in a reliable, accurate and timely way and lead to confusion in the public and in the financial markets that rely on the Department’s data,” Reuters general manager Rob Doherty testified to Congress at the time.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Eric Beech and David Gregorio

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