US to change procedures for release of major economic data

Scott Lanman

The Trump administration said it will ban all electronics including computers from the room where journalists receive advance access to major economic reports, in an effort to ensure a level playing field, according to a U.S. official.

Currently, the Labor Department in Washington hosts “lockups” for major reports lasting 30 to 60 minutes, where journalists receive the data in a secure room, write stories on computers disconnected from the internet, and transmit them when connections are restored at the release time.

The U.S. official, speaking on a conference call with journalists, said the change is being made because several news organizations that participate are able to profit by providing the numbers to algorithmic traders in a format that provides them an advantage.

The change will take effect March 1, the official said. Labor Department officials were asked if the change was specifically aimed at Bloomberg News, which participates in the lockups and whose founder and majority owner, Michael Bloomberg, is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The official denied any political motivation and cited a prior recommendation by the Labor Department’s inspector general.