Thomson Reuters suspends early client access to consumer survey data

Published July 08, 2013

| Associated Press

Thomson Reuters will suspend its practice of distributing results from consumer surveys a couple seconds early to clients who pay the news and business information provider for advance access.

A company spokeswoman said Monday that Thomson Reuters will simultaneously distribute survey data at 9:55 a.m. starting Friday from the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers after the New York State attorney general requested the suspension.

The attorney general's office is investigating the early data access, and Thomson Reuters said it is cooperating with that review.

That twice-monthly survey is separate from the consumer confidence index produced by the private research group the Conference Board.

Thomson Reuters pays for exclusive access to the University of Michigan results, and some of its clients have been paying extra to receive the data two seconds before everyone else. This allows high-speed computers to make trades before others gain access to the data.

Modern stock trading is dominated by automated computer systems that make trades in fractions of a second, and traders can profit from receiving data even milliseconds before its public release. Consumer sentiment regarding the economy is watched closely because consumers' spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The New York Times reported that the attorney general's investor protection bureau is looking at whether preferential disclosure of data is a fair and appropriate business practice.

Thomson Reuters said in an emailed statement it "strongly believes that news and information companies can legally distribute non-governmental data and exclusive news through services provided to fee-paying subscribers."

"It is widely understood that news and information companies compete for exclusive news and differentiated content to help their customers make better informed trading and investment decisions," the statement said.

Company spokeswoman Yvonne Diaz added that Thomson Reuters has always been transparent about how it releases proprietary data so its customers can chose the level of service they want.

Last month, the Conference Board announced that it will no longer provide its economic reports in advance to news organizations because it suspects the data is being diverted early to computer-driven trading systems, which can unfairly profit from it.

It had long provided its monthly data to reporters 30 minutes before the information is publicly released. That early access allowed journalists to prepare news reports ahead of the information's public release.

Last year, the Labor Department revoked early access to its employment data for several companies that deliver data to high-speed traders but produce little or no original news content.

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