Britain will stop giving politicians early access to financial data after fears it is being leaked to the market ahead of release

Sensitive data may be leaking out, allowing traders to profit from inside information.
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

LONDON – Britain’s data authority, the Office for National Statistics, will stop providing politicians and officials early access to its data releases after fears arose that sensitive information is being leaked to the market ahead of its official publication, allowing traders to profit from inside information.

Previously, the ONS gave out data on inflation, unemployment, wages, and retail sales to a handful of Britain’s most important decision makers – including the prime minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy – 21 hours before the data’s official release.

That early access is now being stopped, however, following an analysis that suggested the data may be being leaked to the markets.

“The UK Statistics Authority does not believe Government Ministers and officials should be provided with access to statistics before they are made available to Parliament and to members of the public,” David Norgrove, the head of the authority said in a statement announcing the news.

In March, the Wall Street Journal reported the findings of an analysis by Alexander Kurov, associate professor of finance at West Virginia University, of price data in the hour before key economic data was released, covering the period April 2011 to December 2016.

Professor Kurov found that bond future prices moved on average by 0.029% in the direction they would continue to move after the data was published, suggesting someone had inside information.

Professor Kurov told the paper: “Based on what I see in the data in this case, it is very unlikely that we are looking at a random pattern.”

Pre-release access will be stopped from next month.