Some low-level employee at the Federal Reserve is having a very bad day today, and is undoubtedly receiving a refresher course in the central bank's e-mail system if he or she has not already been fired or turned over to the FBI.
The Federal Reserve was forced to release the latest minutes of its monthly policy-making meeting five hours early Wednesday, after they were inadvertently distributed Tuesday to more than 100 Congressional staff members and trade organization officials.
The minutes are closely watched by traders and investors for any clue about Fed policy, making them among the most market-sensitive documents the government releases.
Which means two things: The Fed had to release the minutes to the rest of us slightly ahead of schedule today and oh my god insider trading!
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were notified of the lapse, and the Fed has asked its own Inspector General's office to review the incident and the central bank's procedures for releasing information. After the mishap was discovered, the minutes were publicly released early at 9 a.m. New York time on Wednesday.
"At this time we do not know whether there was any trading related to early distribution," a Fed spokesman said. ""Every indication is that it was entirely accidental."
None of the 100+ people who got the minutes yesterday afternoon seemed to think much about having received a 24-hour heads up on such sensitive, market-moving information, because none of them gave the old Fed a call. It was left to another Fed underling to check his or her e-mail this morning—something apparently no one at the Fed does after 2 p.m. on a Tuesday—to uncover the snafu.
News organizations were notified at 8:30 a.m. today that the minutes would be released 30 minutes later. Usually, the minutes are distributed to media at 1 p.m. on the condition that they not be released until 2 p.m.
A Fed spokesman said the early distribution was discovered by the Fed early this morning and that the minutes were released publicly as early as practicable.
The spokesman declined to say why the Fed placed a 9 a.m. embargo on the minutes’ release this morning when the information was already in public hands.
Now, onto the boring stuff: What was actually said at the March Fed meeting. And what was actually said was really, really boring: They agree that QE must go on, but don't agree on how they agree.
The minutes, which were released early Wednesday rather than in the afternoon as usual, showed that "all but a few" Fed officials agreed at the central bank's last policy meeting that they wanted to keep the program going "at least through midyear." But after that, officials had a wide range of views about how they might proceed.
Some at the March meeting felt the Fed would be able to begin tapering the program down around midyear. Others saw the Fed continuing through September before tapering down, and a few wanted to keep the program going at its current pace through 2013 and into 2014. Some also held out the possibility of increasing the program if the economic outlook deteriorates.
Fed Says Minutes Were Inadvertently Released [NYT]
Fed Reviews Early Release of Minutes [WSJ]
Fed Minutes' Early Release Prompted by E-Mail [Bloomberg via BW]
Fed releases minutes early after sent to aides, trade groups [Reuters]
Fed Minutes, Released Early, Point Up Bond-Buy Debate [WSJ]