N.Z. Statistics Agency Blames Faulty Clock for GDP Embargo Break

(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand’s statistics agency released economic growth numbers about a minute early to participants of a lock-up, giving them a head-start on data that moved the nation’s dollar and bonds.

The embargo on the second-quarter gross domestic product report was mistakenly lifted “about one minute earlier than the planned time” of 10:45 a.m. in the lock-up in Wellington on Thursday, Statistics New Zealand said in an emailed statement. It said instead of an official time measurement appearing on a staff member’s phone, a computer bug caused the phone’s own time setting to be used, and it was “slightly fast.”

The mistake means that financial media, bank economists and government agencies who attended the lock-up -- where they can access and analyze information before its embargo time -- were able to disseminate the data earlier than others. The New Zealand dollar rose more than half a U.S. cent on the GDP report, which beat market expectations.

Bloomberg News did not attend the lock-up as it takes the data from the Export Direct page of the Statistics New Zealand website, which is updated precisely at 10:45 a.m.

“In future, to ensure equal access of information, Stats NZ will lift the embargo at its media lock-ups based on the time that data is released electronically through its Export Direct service,” the agency said.

The gaffe comes just days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested in a radio interview that she had been given a hint of the GDP data. Ardern later said she had misunderstood the question, and Statistics New Zealand insisted the integrity of its data was sound.

"Stats NZ has strict embargo rules about tier one statistics such as gross domestic product,” Government Statistician Liz MacPherson told Stuff NZ. “These figures are market sensitive and are never given to anyone in advance of the release day.”

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