Govt. Inflation Data Accidentally Released 30 Minutes Early

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released data for the Consumer Price Index 30 minutes before they were supposed to by mistake on Wednesday.

The incident brings into question about how the bureau releases the information, which is some of the most sensitive economic data in the world.

To this point, there weren’t any obvious signs that the publication of the data early resulted in a move in any markets. At the same time, it’s an incident that is likely to spark a much closer look at how data is disseminated — especially for data like this that has implications for policies at the Federal Reserve and on asset prices across the globe.

The bureau posted a statement on its website on Wednesday night that read:

“In advance of today’s CPI and Real Earnings releases, BLS inadvertently loaded a subset of files to the website approximately 30 minutes prior to the release.”

Typically, the BLS releases this monthly report about consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. eastern time. The agency is under strict protocols that are in place to prevent the data from being released early.

That’s because central bank officials and investors across the world scrutinize this data closely, looking for any signal about what direction the economy is headed in.

Once major media outlets reported the official consumer data, futures at U.S. stock indexes exploded. The S&P 500 Index, for instance, ended the day Wednesday at all-time high numbers.

Treasury yields, meanwhile, fell.

No significant movements in the market happened during the 30 minutes that elapsed between when the data was released early and when it was originally scheduled to go out. That suggests that investors didn’t notice the figures included in the accidental early release.

Mingze Wu, who works for Singapores StoneX Financial trading currency, commented to Bloomberg News that 30 minutes is a “very long” time, and that investors would have plenty of opportunity to react in this period had they noticed the early release of the data.

This is the latest snafu from the BLS that has brought the agency under scrutiny. In April, Bloomberg News reported that one BLS economist corresponded on data related to a key U.S. inflation gauge with some major financial firms on Wall Street such as BlackRock Inc. and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

When this was discovered, it raised many questions about whether the BLS was ensuring equitable access to information.

In December of 2022, concerns arose about a possible hack or leak of information after Treasury futures rallied just a few seconds before data was released showing inflation was better than expected.

When this happened, the agency said they didn’t find any evidence that its systems were compromised, nor did they find any suspicious activity happening regarding the release of the data.

On Wednesday, the BLS said it notified the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Labor about the incident.

As the agency said:

“BLS takes its data security seriously and is conducting a full investigation into its procedures and controls to ensure the incident is not repeated.”